Happy spring, everyone! So, the old “April showers” adage is good for rebirth of flora and fauna, but there are also some important things happening this month that tie in to all those flowers and beauty.  April is Heartworm Awareness Month AND Lyme Disease Prevention In Dogs Month, because the organisms that transmit these diseases to our pets emerge this time of year. Both heartworm and Lyme disease share something in common with flourishing flora and fauna…vectors!  Vectors are organisms that transmit disease to others.  Today, I want to focus on mosquitoes and ticks. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, and Lyme disease, by ticks.

Image courtesy of American Animal Hospital Association

How do rain, heartworms, and your pet all relate?  Standing water! Standing water is an open invitation for mosquitoes to lay eggs that hatch into larvae. Yuck!  These larvaemature into mosquitoes, bite infected animals, and can contract the microfilaria that are the infective stage of heartworms.  These mosquitoes are now flying carriers of disease (vectors). Your dog or cat, if not protected from these parasites, can be bitten by the infected mosquito and contract heartworms.  (People are not a recognized host for these parasites, but there are plenty of other reasons we want to avoid a mosquito’s bite as well.)  The baby worms can mature in your pet, causing serious heart and lung disease. If left undiagnosed, this can pose a serious health risk, and even death. 

The good news is we can prevent heartworm infestation by simply giving monthly prevention, whether tablet or topical. Here, at Mount Pleasant Animal Hospital and Shuler Veterinary Clinic, dogs are given Sentinel Spectrum, every 30 days as heartworm, flea, and intestinal parasite prevention. Cats are given Revolution Plus, every 30 days, topically, to control and prevent heartworm disease, fleas, and intestinal parasites.  Revolution Plus also helps kill ticks too, which leads me to my next topic: Lyme disease and tick emergence.

 Spring is the most common time that baby ticks, or nymphs, emerge to latch on to wildlife, and your fur babies! Ticks can carry several bacterial diseases such as Lyme, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Babesia. People are also at risk for these diseases. Ticks are bad news! While many species carry and transmit one specific disease, one species is able to carry multiple! The illnesses they carry can produce mild clinical signs (lethargy, anorexia, or shifting leg lameness) to more severe signs (nose bleeds or blood clotting issues). Lyme disease can take on a more chronic form, if not identified and treated promptly. Prevention of this disease is truly the best medicine. In our area, be on the lookout for the following ticks: The blacklegged tick (or deer tick), brown dog tick, lonestar tick, and American dog tick (shown below, respectively). Any of these can pose a health risk for your pets and you. 

Images courtesy of Companion Animal Parasite Council

If you find a tick attached to your pet, give us a call and we can remove and identify it for you. For more information, and to help us track and identify ticks, visit Tick Spotters! 

Remember, just because your pet is predominantly indoors, does NOT mean they are protected from these two diseases.  Ticks, mosquitoes, and other parasites routinely find their way into your home through cracks, screens, and even attached to you. There is no protective bubble to protect your pet entirely from parasites. Their best protection is prevention, every 30 days, along with yearly diagnostic testing.

During your pet’s preventive care exam at the veterinarian near me, we can test, in-house, for heartworm or Lyme disease, or even if your pet has been exposed to either, in just a few minutes! For dogs, this diagnostic test (Idexx 4dx Snap Test) can also detect exposure to other tick-borne diseases, including Ehrlichia and Anaplasma. Cats are tested for heartworm exposure using the Idexx Feline Triple Snap Test.

Not only are there tests to identify the diseases, but also multiple modes of protection and prevention for your pet.  For our canine companions, the Lyme vaccine to prevent the disease, and Nexgard, to kill the ticks before they can transmit disease.  Nexgard also kills adult fleas.  For cats, Revolution Plus is the perfect choice for preventing fleas and ticks from entering your household.  Lyme disease is also transmissible to humans, through ticks, so killing the vector on the pet is an easy way to stop transmission of disease in any direction! We are fortunate to have so many ways to control these powerful vectors of disease.

With all that being said… happy spring, y’all! It really is a great time of year here, in Mount Pleasant, SC, and rest assured your pet is in good hands with our team!

Look here… if I see you out trying to bubble wrap your pet, then I know you didn’t finish reading my blog! However, if you made it to the end, feel confident that we have you covered for April showers and all your spring encounters!