All the pets of NYC are out and about enjoying the spring weather, but so are all the bad bugs that can cause disease in our furry friends. People think that just because we live in a concrete jungle as opposed to a green one, the threats of the great outdoors aren’t there. They are mistaken. The risk of diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks and intestinal parasites are prevalent in the East Village and you need to be informed so that your pets are protected!
Heartworm Disease: Heartworms are parasites that are carried by mosquitoes and can infect our dogs and cats. The larvae are transmitted to the animal when the mosquito bites. As they mature they go to the heart and can grow to up to a foot in length! These worms can cause fatigue or cough. Believe it or not, mosquitoes love the city because they breed in stagnant water. Thankfully, heartworm disease is completely preventable by giving your dog heartworm preventative in the form of a tablet once a month. If an animal becomes infected, the treatment is very expensive and painful (deep muscle injections). Even dogs that never leave their Lower East Side apartment are susceptible because mosquitoes can come through unscreened windows (I have been bitten and my apartment is on the fourth floor!). Therefore, it is recommended to keep your dogs on heartworm preventative year round and perform a blood test annually to make sure they do not have this horrible disease.
Lyme Disease: Dogs can get Lyme disease if they are bitten by a tick carrying the disease. Lyme disease can cause arthritis and swelling of the joints, fever, lameness, and kidney failure. While it is true that apartment dogs that never go to the park have a decreased risk of infection, any dog that frequents wooded areas or is lucky enough to go out to Long Island or upstate NY, NJ, PA or CT is at risk of being infected. Ticks can be prevented by topical or oral monthly medication. It’s recommended to test our dogs for Lyme disease (and other tick-borne diseases) with an annual blood test. Also, it’s not uncommon for ticks to be prevalent before the warm weather (we’ve seen ticks attached to dogs in January!), so a year round preventative is important!
Intestinal Parasites: Probably the most prevalent creepy crawlies that our furry friends can get are the parasites they pick up from the dog park and the streets. Giardia, roundworms, whipworms and hookworms are commonly acquired in our city pets and can sometimes even be transferred to us! These bugs can cause diarrhea and weight loss or no symptoms at all. Checking a fecal at least once a year is recommended (even when there are no signs). Thankfully monthly heartworm preventative can also prevent against most of these parasites.
Here at St. Marks Veterinary Hospital we are happy to see the beginning of warm weather but we hope that you keep your family and pets protected against the diseases that come along with it! Hope to see you and your pets soon!