, Newburyport, MA


May 17, 2013

Paw Prints: Spring is prime time for disease

Spring has sprung, and it seems every creature and critter is more active. Birds are tweeting, bugs are hungry and wildlife is checking out your yard. Fido may hear the coyote choir at night, but it doesn’t intimidate him. If Fluffy goes outside, he’s prowling for little prey.

With the annual awakening of Mother Nature comes an increase in infectious disease. In fact, the risk that your pet will acquire a disease from another living creature is significantly higher during warm weather than it was a few months ago.

Here’s my list of five seasonal health risks from other creatures to cats and dogs in our area.

1. Tick diseases. There are many different ticks in our neck of the woods, and each hosts a variety of nasty diseases. Perhaps the most problematic and prolific are deer ticks.

Deer ticks are responsible for three common diseases — Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis. A single deer tick can infect a human with all three bacteria during its gluttonous blood meal. Lyme disease has not been reported in cats, but they can become sick with anaplasmosis.

Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are frequently diagnosed in dogs in our area. Although deer ticks are frantically in search of a blood meal now, they actually have a two-year life cycle. This means they will hunt for, and attach to, dogs or other victims even during mild winter weeks.

Vaccines are available for Lyme disease but not anaplasmosis. Since no tick control product is 100 percent effective, the Lyme vaccine is a good idea. Prevention is especially important because the preferred antibiotic to treat these infections is in short supply.

The best way to prevent tick diseases in your pets is to use effective prevention all year. Products vary in efficacy and safety, so be sure to talk to your veterinarian.

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