Springtime Means Parasites!
As spring approaches in a few weeks, our attention will turn to outside activities, like sprucing up the landscaping, raking away the dead leaves, planting flowers and washing windows. In my life as a veterinarian March has always made me think of parasite prevention. March has always been the month when the American Dog Tick emerges from its wintertime slumber and crawls up the taller blades of grass to wait patiently for a dog or person to walk by. In Indiana the Lone Star Tick also has been waiting for the temperatures to rise sufficiently to awaken from a long winter's sleep. These springtime ticks will carry diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichiosis.
Of course, we just finished fall and winter where the predominant tick would be the deer tick which spreads Lyme Disease, the most common tick-borne disease in the USA. We just can't seem to get away from these blood-sucking critters. At our hospital in 2021 we had 140 dogs test positive for a tick disease, 104 of which were Lyme. Most were asymptomatic (no signs of illness), but we don't know long term what this will mean for the dog's health and well-being over its lifetime. 10-20% come to us sick and in need of medication to return to a state of clinical health. But we can never definitively say that your pet is completely free of the organism that causes Lyme Disease. In humans also, Lyme Disease is the fastest growing vector-borne disease in America.
Ticks are not the only parasite to be on our radar this time of year. Many across America will be taking their dogs to the park. You may be interested to know there was a parasite study done in 2019 called The Dog Park Study. Ten dogs at each of 288 dog parks around the US were randomly checked for intestinal parasites. It was discovered that 1 in 5 dogs had parasitic infections. Hookworms, whipworms and Giardia were the top three most common parasites found. In 85% of the parks, parasites were found. What do you think the chances are that in Versailles State Park there are parasites that dogs can pick up? I know many of our clients walk their dogs in the VSP. Don't get me wrong. Our local parks are great places to enjoy the wonderful outdoors with your best friend. As responsible pet owners, we need to be protecting our dogs with appropriate parasite prevention medications. Parasites are everywhere, even in your backyard.
At our veterinary clinic we think of parasite prevention all year. Even in January of this year we had 15 dogs test positive for a tick disease and have seen many cases of Giardia, an intestinal parasite that also infects humans. For the general public, springtime is the season of getting outside and doing activities that have been put off due to the weather. Think of your pet (dog or cat) and the parasites that lurk in your yard or places you take them. Keeping your furry friends on year-round, life-long parasite prevention is one of the most thoughtful and loving ways to say "I appreciate you!" to Max or Tigger.
Harley Robinson, DVM