Okay, guys, today we’re talking about a gross, kind of scary topic. I don’t want to scare you, but you do need to be prepared. So, roll up your sleeves, and let’s do this! :-)
Folks are starting to travel again, and many families travel with their dogs. Did you know that fleas, ticks, and mosquitos prefer to live in certain regions of the United States? The southeast especially is a hotbed for fleas, ticks, and mosquitos. We humans aren’t the only species who love the warm, humid climate!
All three parasites are an uncomfortable nuisance at best and life-threatening at worst. Whether the dog experiences itchiness, hair loss, allergies, tapeworms, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or heartworms, no pet parent wants to see their pet-kid suffer. That’s why you should talk with your veterinarian about what preventatives they recommend for your pup. Some vets who live in dry, arid climates don’t necessarily recommend placing dogs on many preventatives because the number of those parasites may be low. Whereas, if you live in Georgia, North Carolina, or Florida, for instance, your vet will likely put your pup on a flea and tick preventative as well as a heartworm preventative.
That’s great for living in a particular region, but what about when you travel? It’s also a fantastic idea to talk with your vet if you plan to visit an area with a high number of parasites. For example, if you live in Nevada and do not have your pet on flea/tick medicine and you visit the North Georgia mountains for some hiking, you will absolutely need tick prevention. Similarly, suppose you don’t usually have your dog on heartworm medicine. If you visit a place with a lot of mosquitos, you’ll want to ask your vet about a possible dose of heartworm preventative to protect your pup while you’re on vacation.
Every three years, the American Heartworm Society surveys thousands of shelters and veterinarians and correlates data from those 6,000 practices to create a national incidence map for heartworm positive cases. The AHS completed the latest report in 2019 (read it here).
It found that no state is heartworm free although the top five states in 2019 were Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Alabama. Weather conditions like droughts and hurricanes can alter the disease’s proliferation, either reducing or increasing it. Usually, the more wet a place is, the more mosquitos it has.
Mosquitoes themselves don’t give heartworms, but they do carry it from an infected host like a coyote to a family dog.
Fleas and ticks give nasty things to dogs in a similar way. The best tick preventative is you. In addition to a chemical/medicine-based preventative, physically check your dog for ticks after walks anywhere there are tall-ish shrubs, grasses, or when in the woods. Remove any ticks as fast as possible, hopefully before they attach themselves. But, if you find the tick has already burrowed into your dog’s skin, carefully remove it using tweezers placed against the dog’s skin, so you pull the head of the tick out. Accidentally pulling the body off but leaving the head can be highly irritating to your dog. Also, try not to squeeze the tick’s body. If you do, it squirts contaminated blood back into your pup. I know it’s hard to do, and that’s why I recommend using tweezers. That way, you do not have to touch the body at all.
By the way, after a romp in the woods, you should also check yourself for ticks as well. All the information that applies to dogs also applies to humans in this case. Get that tick off of you ASAP.
Fleas are super bothersome, can cause allergies, and can transfer tapeworm to any family member. These little buggers also seem to love the southeast but are prevalent in much of the United States.
While it’s not the fun, happy part of owning animals, knowing about the possible parasites that can make them sick is a part of responsible ownership. We love our pets like family, so we want to take care of them as we do ourselves, and keeping them safe means you’re keeping your whole family safe.