Spring in Sudbury – finally! As we all scramble to take advantage of the warmer weather, other forms of life are also gearing up to carry on their life cycles. Whether it crawls on the grass and leaf matter, lives in the soil or water droplets or flies through the air, parasites are a part of life that we need to be mindful of.
Let us start with the headliners – Ticks, Lyme Disease, Echinococcus! Most pet owners will be aware of most of these – hard not to if you listen to the media at all. Ticks are becoming more prevalent here in the north, and recent research suggests they are active as soon as it hits 0 Celsius outside. If you and your four-legged friend are walking in the bush, in the tall grasses in your backyard or the local park, these little critters are waiting for you and your furry friend. Check your pet after every walk as well as yourself, and use preventives to add to your level of protection. Travelling to southern Ontario, or the United States increases the risk of contact with these parasites. Talk with your veterinary team about the risks your lifestyle has regarding these parasites for your pet.
Echinococcus or tapeworm is becoming a more concerning issue, as emerging species pose serious health issues for us. Internal parasites such as roundworms are an ongoing concern for young children and young pets. These carry on their life cycle in the great outdoors, in the dirt and water on the grass. Playing as kids do, and nibbling on grass as both cats and dogs do, potentially exposes them to these very common internal parasites. If you spend time in the bush, or your furry friend is a known hunter, then your likelihood of infection rises accordingly. Periodic fecal exams can be helpful to identify parasite loads, as well as an examination of the rectal fur on your pet. Routine deworming of young animals is done, older pets are often overlooked. Discussion with your veterinary team members can identify what prevention may be helpful again, given your particular lifestyle with your pet.
What would spring in the north be without flying insects – more enjoyable! For the most part, these guys cause local irritation, drive owners and pets crazy with buzzing and biting. However, some do carry diseases such as heartworm that we need to be concerned about. Lifestyle and avoiding heavy flying hours of the day (dusk and dawn) will reduce risks naturally. When that is not possible, there are prevention options available. Please discuss with the veterinary team about what works for you and your pet.
It is important to remember that certain preventatives discussed have residual effects – all flea and tick medications fall in this category. The goal is to prevent any of the causes of the diseases by these parasites. Others such as the internal parasite measures are in and out. They kill certain life stages of the parasites BEFORE they can reproduce. There is no residue to them. Some newer products available will cover all the major parasites we are concerned about and if followed monthly, will both protect and treat as needed.
The lifestyle of you and your pet has been eluded to many times, and it is the most important. Some of us by pure location and activity or dog breed has a much higher chance of encountering these various parasites. Others have a lesser risk. One size does not fit all. Please take time to discuss with the veterinary team about your pet and the lifestyle it leads, so we can help you prevent or treat what is right for you.
Have a great spring/summer!
Written by: Dr. Tim Blatt, DVM