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May 22, 2003

Warm weather means pets will need more care

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Pet owners should begin taking special care of their animals before the dog days of summer arrive.

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Steve Thompson, veterinarian and director of the Pet Wellness Clinic at Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine, says now is the time to think about parasite control, heat stroke and travel arrangements for cats and dogs.

"Every summer veterinarians see animals that have collapsed from heat stroke or that have developed paralysis from an infected tick bite," Thompson says. "Pet owners need to be aware that a few precautionary measures can make summer bearable for cats and dogs."

As pets spend more time outside during the warm weather, they are likely to encounter a disease-transmitting insect such as a tick, mosquito or flea. Thompson says pet owners should take a few minutes daily to run their hands, or a specialized comb, through their pet's fur to look for ticks.

"Ticks are more of a problem with dogs than cats because felines groom the ticks off," Thompson says.

Ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Another problematic insect is the mosquito, which can carry the West Nile virus.

"Confirmed cases of West Nile have yet to be reported in dogs and cats," Thompson says. "The disease is known to affect birds, horses and people, but there is still no evidence that it affects dogs, cats or any other carnivores."

However, that is not a reason to ignore the potential problems from mosquito bites. Thompson says mosquitoes can pass heartworm to dogs, cats and ferrets. Fleas can transmit tapeworms to dogs and cats, as well as bartonella – cat scratch fever – to cats.

There are pet products, such as insect repellents and flea collars, available to help prevent bug bites. Thompson says owners need to closely follow the directions of all medicinal products.

"When pet owners are selecting over-the-counter products to help prevent any of these insects, it is important to consider possible interactions," he says. "For example, if you apply a product to your dog that is not safe for cats, then you need to make sure the cat doesn't continue sleeping with the dog the day it is applied. If you have any questions about any repellent or insecticide, contact your veterinarian."

When it comes to keeping a pet healthy during the summer, Thompson says owners need to be aware of how heat affects their animals.

"Instead of running with your dog in the heat of the day, think about exercising with your dog in the mornings or late evenings," Thompson says. "Also, dog owners need to be conscious of each breed's cooling system. Heat stroke is a bigger problem for dogs with shorter noses, such as boxers and bulldogs."

Thompson also reminds pet owners not to leave pets waiting in cars, and to make sure that if a pet is left outside during warm weather it has access to shade and water.

During the summer, some owners will travel with their pets, while others will board them during vacations. Thompson says pets need to have their vaccine records up to date before being boarded or traveling. He also recommends that pet owners have extra copies of the records in case of emergencies.

"Also, make sure kennel reservations are made in advance for the summer holidays," Thompson says. "Planning ahead is key to making sure pets are safe and healthy during the summer."

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Steve Thompson, (765) 494-1107, drt@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

 

PHOTO CAPTION
Steve Thompson, veterinarian and director of the Wellness Clinic at Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine, inspects Kit Kat's fur with a flea comb for evidence of the parasitic insects. Thompson says now is the time for pet owners to begin watching their pets' coats for tick bites and fleas. During the warmer months, it is also time to think about protecting pets from mosquito bites and heat stroke. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photograph is available at http://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/thompson.pets.jpeg


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