When we hear “disease” in our pets, we often think of the ones that surprise us and were uncontrollable. Today, though, we want to focus on some of the ones that are preventable because we know that your pet’s health is a priority, and that preventing a disease is much better than trying to heal one. With that, April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, and we want to talk about this and other preventable diseases so that you know what some of your options are:
- Heartworm Disease
Mosquitoes are more than a nuisance; a single bite from a mosquito carrying infective heartworm larvae can be potentially deadly for your dog. After the bite, the larvae make their way through the dog’s body until they reach the heart and blood vessels within the lungs. This process can take about 6 months. Once there, the larvae mature and can grow to be 12 inches or longer. Heartworm disease can be prevented by administering a regular, year-round heartworm preventive.
- Lyme Disease
Caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by deer ticks, Lyme disease in dogs can be prevented by avoiding environments where ticks are prevalent, checking your dog’s skin and coat daily and removing ticks, using appropriate year-round flea and tick preventives, and vaccinating your dog against Lyme when appropriate.
- Canine Influenza
Also called the dog flu, canine influenza is a highly contagious and potentially deadly viral infection that has affected dogs in most U.S. states. Some dogs suffering from canine influenza do not exhibit any symptoms but still spread the virus to other dogs. Those that do become ill may develop a persistent cough, nasal and/or eye discharge, fever, lethargy, and reduced appetite. Some dogs can develop more serious secondary bacterial infections that lead to pneumonia. There have been two strains of dog flu identified—H3N8 and H3N2—and both can be prevented with a vaccine.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that occurs when a dog comes into contact with the leptosira bacteria, often in contaminated water. Infected dogs can experience fever, shivering, weakness, decreased appetite, sore muscles and reluctance to move, depression, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, yellow skin or whites of eyes, dehydration, and more. Prevent your dog from becoming infected with leptospirosis by not letting him drink from standing water or swim in bodies of water that could be contaminated. There is also a leptospirosis vaccine that might be a good option for your dog.