By Dr. Katy
Dr. Katy Nelson is a veterinarian, Mommy, host of The Pet Show with Dr. Katy on Washington, D.C.'s NewsChannel 8, ABC 7's Animal Health Reporter, and WTOP Radio's Dr. Pawz. The 2014 recipient of the Washington Humane Society's "Humane Hero Award," Dr. Katy works tirelessly for many animal-related charities in the D.C. area and beyond. Dr. Katy is also the Co-Executive Producer of Tell Them I Am Kind, a documentary following one family from Newtown, Conn., and how animals helped with their healing process, due to air on PBS in 2015.
Did you know that dogs can be bitten by as many as 500 mosquitoes per day during peak season? And don’t think your area is immune. Tropical species of mosquitoes are now being found as far north as Minnesota and as far west as Nevada. Hurricane Katrina may have had a lot to do with the spread of mosquitoes throughout the United States due to the massive movement of stray dogs from New Orleans to the rest of the country.
We need to come to grips with the fact that mosquitoes are more than just pests. More than 70 species of mosquito have been shown capable of transmitting dangerous heartworms to dogs and cats, and only half of owned dogs and a mere 5% of cats actually receive heartworm preventative. This is devastating news for the health of our pets!
Many people still believe that heartworm disease is a “southern dog disease.” Perhaps in the early days of research on this disease this could have been perceived as true. Now, however, it is blatantly obvious that this is a disease spread throughout the United States that’s quickly reaching epidemic proportions.
Why is this? For many years, veterinarians have told their clients that in “their” part of the country or during “this” time of year, heartworm prevention wasn’t necessary. We now know better. As urban sprawl continues, and shopping centers and parking lots continue to create so-called heat islands that are capable of moderating temperatures throughout seasonal changes, we create microcosms for these parasitic vectors to survive. A mosquito larva can survive in any small puddle, even a flowerpot.
This is why heartworm prevention is essential for your pets. No matter where you live, no matter your lifestyle, your dog should be on heartworm prevention. Mosquitoes can travel through doors, windows, or even on fabrics into your home and infect your pet. When your pet’s health is at stake, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Fleas and Ticks
Unfortunately, mosquitoes aren’t the only little buggers you need to be worrying about. There are fleas—in addition to being a pain to remove from the home, these wingless insects also carry tapeworms, which can cause severe gastrointestinal problems in our household pets. Ticks, which used to only be found along the Gulf Coast, are turning up in the central United States, and their parasites and diseases are coming along for the ride. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, and Ehrlichiosis are being diagnosed all over the United States, both in animals and in people.
So here’s the bottom line: talk to your veterinarian about having your pet on monthly parasite preventatives. Many preventive medications on the market are “cross-pollinators,” meaning that a flea and tick preventative can prevent mosquitoes, or a heartworm preventative can prevent intestinal parasite infestation. If you can protect yourself, your family, and your pet with a once monthly dosage of a proven-safe medication to your pet, why wouldn’t you?
For more spring safety tips, click here.