Did you know that Minnesota cats and dogs are susceptible to heartworm disease? Heartworm is a potentially fatal infection spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. And since mosquitoes may enter our homes, it is important that even indoor-only pets receive preventatives. We have a number of oral and topical products available to protect your pet; please call us for a recommendation.
Ticks only need a day or two of above-freezing weather to come out of hiding. This means that Minnesota tick season may start as early as February depending on current weather conditions. Not all tick products are equal and some provide better protection than others. Our staff has received special training about ticks and available tick preventatives – just ask if you want to know what’s right for your pet. Make sure to read labels carefully as available products may have differing application instructions. And never apply a dog-only product to a cat. For additional protection, most dogs should also receive Lyme vaccination as Lyme is endemic in Minnesota.
Springtime often comes with rain and mud. If your pet enjoys going outdoors, here are a few tips to help keep them clean! Use a gentle dog or cat shampoo to cleanse your pet. Keep hair trimmed short, especially on the feet, to allow for easier cleaning. If you need to bathe your pet frequently, use plain water and keep the bath temperature lukewarm. Also, keep baths short to prevent drying out sensitive skin. For quick bathing, unscented baby wipes or waterless shampoos are useful for spot cleaning or when you are away from home. Stash clean towels in your car, garage or near the door of your house to allow for easier cleaning after enjoying the fresh outdoor air.
If your pet is not up-to-date on vaccines, now is the time to get them caught up! Dogs may be more susceptible to "kennel cough" if they are going to be out on frequent walks or going to the dog park this spring. And make sure your cat has been vaccinated for feline leukemia virus before they go outside this spring. If you are unsure if your pet is in need of vaccines, you may sign up for a "Pet Portal" or call our office and we will let you know what is due.
Heatstroke may be deadly to your pet. With the warmer weather, it is smart to leave your pet at home while running errands. Even with windows rolled down or parked in the shade, temperatures inside vehicles may quickly climb to unsafe levels. When exercising in hot weather, go out early in the day or late in the evening. Bring along water for your pet and yourself and take frequent breaks to drink and rest in the shade. Your pet should be gradually acclimated to exercising in hot weather. On especially hot or humid days, it is best to take the day off or head for the water. If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, hose them off immediately and quickly get them to Bass Lake Pet Hospital or into an emergency clinic.
Some pets are natural swimmers while others are not. But, even dogs that don’t enjoy swimming may enjoy wading along the edge of a lake or pond and we have even known a cat or two who enjoys playing in the water! If you will be out on a boat or dock, or your pet has especially short legs, it is smart to have them fitted with a pet lifejacket. Be aware of what your pet may be eating or drinking in the water, as some algae, dead fish, bacteria and plants may cause upset stomach and some may be toxic. Pets who swim in outdoor lakes or ponds should be vaccinated against leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that causes liver and kidney disease in dogs.
If your pet swims, is bathed frequently or if the weather is humid, your pet may benefit from ear cleaning. Look down inside your pet’s ear. It should be pale pink in color or match your dog or cat’s skin color. The ear should contain very little wax and be free of odor. If your pet is shaking it’s head, scratching or you notice excessive yellow, brown or black wax or the ear appears bright red in color, your pet may have an ear infection and should be examined by one of our veterinarians. Our staff can give you a hands-on demonstration on how to safely and effectively clean your pet’s ears.
Annual Bloodwork and Fecal Examinations
If this hasn’t been done yet, make sure your pet comes in for his or her annual blood examination. This testing may be done with a veterinary technician so there is no additional office fee. Annual blood testing on dogs includes screening of the liver, kidney, blood protein, blood sugar, heartworm and tick testing. Annual testing on cats includes screening of the liver, kidney, blood protein, blood sugar and thyroid. We do more extensive screening on senior patients over the age of seven. Fecal examinations should also be performed annually to screen for intestinal parasites and assure the effectiveness of parasite preventatives.
It is a common misconception that fleas are only a summer problem. We actually see fleas most often in the late summer and fall. Flea problems are best prevented as it may take months to clear up an established flea infestation. Most pets with fleas are itchy and uncomfortable and some pets may develop allergic reactions or secondary infections. If your pet goes outdoors or is kept in a household with other pets that go outdoors, you should use a flea preventative on your pet. We have both topical and oral medications available to prevent and treat fleas. It is important that you continue to use these medications as directed until the outside ground has frozen. Our staff is experienced in flea treatment and prevention so let us know if you have questions and we will help you out!
Many cats and dogs have seasonal allergies similar to people who are allergic to trees, grasses and weed pollens. Common signs in pets include excessive itching, over-grooming, excessive licking and chewing. Some animals may even wake you up in the middle of the night with their scratching. Others may lose hair and develop inflamed or bumpy skin. Depending on the severity of your pet’s symptoms, we will perform a thorough dermatologic examination, checking for other diseases like fleas, mites and infections. The good news is that, although allergies cannot be cured, there are a number of treatments available to keep your pet comfortable. Make sure to never give your pet your own allergy medications or over-the-counter allergy medications without first checking with a veterinarian.
Dogs and cats who are outdoors, and even those kept mainly indoors, may be exposed to worms through contact with feces, soil and potting soil, contact with fleas or hunting or eating dead animals. An annual fecal examination is recommended to check your pet for worms or anytime you notice soft stool with your pet. Worms are most common in puppies and kittens and in those coming from shelters or rescues. Did you know that some worms may spread from pets to people? This is a condition termed zoonosis. Fortunately, many worms are easily treated although some pets may be prone to reinfection and need ongoing control measures. Many commercial preventatives contain ingredients that kill intestinal parasites along with heartworms and we recommend all dogs and cats receive parasite preventatives to keep them healthy and worm-free. We can help you choose which product is best for your pet, just ask!
If you dress your pet appropriately for the weather, you may continue your regular exercise program into the winter months. Dogs with short hair and little body fat will benefit from sweaters or coats. Even longer haired dogs may benefit from an extra layer of protection, especially if it is windy or wet outside. If your pet holds up feet when walking outside in the snow and ice, boots may be used to protect sensitive feet and prevent ice from balling up between the pads. Salt on the roads can also irritate pet’s feet, so make sure to wash them off with water after being outside or use boots to protect them. Cats will likely prefer to stay inside when it is cold outdoors, but they likely will enjoy having a resting place next to a sunny window or in a warm basement.
Older pets and those with joint injuries may act more stiff during the cold winter months. Keeping them warm and continuing regular walking will be helpful. Some pets may also benefit from supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin or fish oils. Some pets may require more potent anti-inflammatory medications or injections to remain comfortable. If you notice problems with your pet this winter, please call to discuss your concerns with one of our veterinarians and we can discuss supplements and medications and appropriate products and dosage. Some arthritic pets may additionally benefit from chiropractic care or acupuncture.
Heartworm Preventative use in winter??
Our clinic believes strongly in the necessity of using heartworm preventatives all year long. No, there aren’t mosquitoes out in Minnesota in January spreading heartworm. However, that monthly preventative you are giving also protects against intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms. These parasites can be picked up if conditions are right any time of year, even in Minnesota. So, keep your pet and family healthy, and keep giving that monthly medication all year long. As a bonus, it will keep up your good routine of giving your pet their monthly medication so you are less apt to forget!
Obesity and "Winter Weight"
Just like us, pets often put on weight in the winter. Shorter days, cold weather, rich holiday meals and more time spent on the couch often mean less exercise and extra calories. Make time to exercise with your pet during the winter. And, if you know your pet won’t be exercising as much or he or she got a lot of extra goodies at a party or from guests, cut back a bit on the amount of dog or cat food. That way, when spring comes and you are ready to head outside, extra pounds won’t hold your pet back.