Dr. Oz: Spring means ticks and issues for your pets

Dr. Moshe Oz of West Kelowna talks about some current issues for your pets

By Dr. Moshe Oz

Spring is here and we’re starting to get ready for the warm months ahead. Unfortunately, humans are not the only beings that thrive in hot whether. Pet owners should be aware and protect their pets against diseases that are transmitted by pests that are active in the warmer seasons.

Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are large roundworms that live in the right side of the heart and lungs.

The worm gets spread by mosquitoes. The Okanagan Valley is one of the only areas in Canada in which heartworm is present.

Heartworm infestation can potentially result in death due to respiratory and heart failure. Although less common, cats will occasionally become infested as well.

There are no symptoms at all until the disease is very advanced. Then, the symptoms are those of congestive heart failure: Coughing, difficulty breathing, perhaps fainting spells and an enlarged abdomen.

A blood test is available and is the most common method of diagnosis. It takes approximately six to seven months from the time of infection until the test becomes positive.

Treatment for heartworm disease is available. However, treatment is costly and not without risks.

Another type of parasite that you need to be aware of is ticks. Ticks attach to warm blooded beings, including humans, and suck their blood, exposing them to potential diseases.

There are few different tick borne diseases. The two most common conditions seen in our area are Lyme disease and Tick paralysis.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by a bacteria that is transmitted by the common deer tick. Cats can get infected but are less susceptible than dogs.

Clinical illness in dogs usually occurs two to five months after a bite from an infected tick.

The symptoms shown are usually of general illness (fever, loss of energy and appetite and swollen joints).

Lyme disease is treated by a long course of antibiotics (usually between 14 and 30 days) and pain killers.

Tick paralysis is caused by a toxin produced in the tick and transmitted to the animal through the tick’s saliva. This toxin affects the animal’s nervous system.

The paralysis starts gradually by first back leg weakness and uncoordination, which turns into complete paralysis. Eventually the animal becomes unable to move. The paralysis affects also the respiratory system, which leads to laboured breathing and eventually respiratory failure.

The diagnosis of the condition may be difficult. The diagnosis is based on finding a tick on the pet along with the characteristic clinical signs. Many times the tick is not present any more on the animal at the time of diagnosis.

Removal of all ticks usually results in obvious improvement within 24 hours.

With all of these conditions—heartworm, lyme disease and tick paralysis—prevention is the key. There are different products with varying coverage and different means of application.

Generally, the preventative medication should be administered once a month for the entire duration of the warm temperature season. A vaccine against lyme disease is also available .

Your veterinarian can help you decide on the best choice of protection for your pet, depending on your lifestyle and needs.

Moshe Oz is a veterinarian at the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West Kelowna. He can be reached at 250-769-9109 or go to www.kelownavet.ca.

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