Kari Horton is a volunteer with Heartland Small Animal Rescue – a nonprofit that rescues animals scheduled for euthanasia in local shelters. To read more from Heartland, check out the rescue’s community blog for The Elkhart Truth, Tails from the Heart.
Just as yearly physical exams and preventative medications are suggested for humans, they’re also very beneficial to our pets. There are many things we can do as responsible pet parents to keep our animals healthy. Many preventative actions are especially important in the warm summer months, as our pets spend more time outdoors.
A general physical exam once or twice a year with your vet is recommended. During an exam, your vet will check all of your pet’s vital signs and will discuss any changes you may have noticed in your pet since the last exam. Often a behavioral change as simple as having some accidents in the house or an increase in barking could signal a medical problem. As with humans, illnesses and diseases identified in their early stages are typically much easier to treat.
Most pets require yearly vaccines. Dogs need more than a yearly rabies vaccine to stay healthy. Indoor cats are often overlooked by pet parents when it comes to vaccines. Even cats that stay inside all the time should receive yearly shots. They can come into contact with more than you realize if they accidentally get outside or if you have pets that go outside and then interact with your indoor cat. Even small animals such as ferrets require a yearly rabies vaccine.
Heartworm preventatives and yearly testing are extremely important too. Our area ranks rather high in cases of heartworm. The last study by the American Heartworm Society in 2007 indicated each reporting clinic in our state had 26 to 50 cases each in one year. Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal condition. Dogs, cats, ferrets and in rare cases, even humans can contract heartworm. The disease is caused by a parasite that lives in the lungs and/or heart of a mammal. Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes biting one animal infected with heartworm and then biting another animal. More often than not, the early stages of heartworm go undetected.
The treatment for heartworm itself can cause fatalities. Animals must be kept relatively quiet and calm during the one to two month treatment period. If they are not, dead worms can cause a blockage of blood flow, causing death. So, you can see why having your pets on a monthly preventative for heartworm and testing them every year is vital to their health.
Fleas and ticks
The mere mention of fleas and ticks make most of us cringe or itch. Pets (including small animals such as guinea pigs, if they are let outside) are very vulnerable to both of these parasites. Fleas and ticks are likely out in your yard right now – stray and wild animals can bring fleas into your area, and ticks live in grass and shrubs. Fleas are agitating to any animal, but can be particularly bothersome to animals that have allergies to them. Fleas can also transmit tapeworm to our pets. Ticks can carry a host of disease such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These and other tick-transmitted diseases can kill our pets.
These pests can be prevented though – simply using a flea and tick preventatives can keep your pet from getting infested with these skin-crawling parasites.
Then there are the equally disgusting intestinal worms. Animals contract these worms by exposure to other animals’ feces (which happens easily at dog parks). Some intestinal worms such as round and hook worms can cause serious diseases in people as well. Vets recommend, at a minimum, a yearly fecal exam and having your animal on preventative medication.
If you have any questions regarding the right preventative medications for your pet, please contact your veterinarian. He or she will recommend the correct medication and dosage for every animal in your family. You may also contact your vet if you are unsure if your pet needs to be on a monthly preventative. Often indoor cats, guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits and other pets are forgotten when it comes to parasite prevention. If your animals spend time outside or come into contact with other animals that do, ask your vet today about how to protect them.
So, as you can see, a little prevention in the form of yearly testing and monthly medications can go a long way in keeping your pet and family safe from disease and illness.
All of our rescue animals are up-to-date on vaccines. We treat animals infected with heartworm or parasites as needed. We test for heartworm and FIV/FILV. At Heartland Small Animal Rescue, we start your new, adoptive pets out on the right track.
Would you like to become one of The Elkhart Truth’s community bloggers? Get in touch with our community manager, Ann Elise Taylor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.