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“Does my dog really need this?"

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

Hi everyone, Dr Fauron here for this week’s blog entry. The days are getting longer, the smells are starting to change, the birds are starting to chirp in the morning… Spring is around the corner! Great, but why does this matter I hear you ask. Because who says Spring in Colorado, says beginning of mud/wet season, and, at that time of the year they are a couple things we need to keep in mind regarding our canine companions. This is even more true if like me, you own a dog that is part canine, part mud monster (see Ralph, pictured above). Today, I want to talk about three things that we always recommend, but especially more so at the beginning of Spring.

  1. Leptospirosis vaccine (`Lepto’)

There is a lot to unpack about Lepto, but I will keep this as straightforward as possible. Leptospirosis is a bacteria spread through the urine of infected rodents and that lives best in warm, slow moving bodies of water. After heavy rain, flooding or snow melting, the bacteria can contaminate the soil for many months and resurface. Lepto bacterias can stay alive as long as their environment is moist (oh hi mud season!).

Dogs can become infected with lepto one of two ways: when a cut, irritated skin or eyes come in contact with infected urine, or by drinking contaminated water (the most common route of transmission in urban and surburban areas). If your dog is anything like mine then you can see where I am going with this… Dogs who love to bathe in, or drink from, (mud)puddles on warm spring and summer days are most at risk of catching leptospirosis. If you think this sounds very outdoorsy and your dog is not necessarily at risk, remember that an outbreak affecting more than 200 dogs in Los Angeles county in 2021 started in a boarding facility.

The symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs can range from mild to severe, and can include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and in severe cases, kidney and liver failure. An uncommon but very severe form of the disease arise when the bacteria gets into the lungs. Leptospirosis can be fatal if left untreated. It is also one of the very few zoonotic diseases that affect dogs, meaning a disease that you as a dog owner could potentially get from your four legged friend if said friend is infected (but dog to people transmission is extremely rare).

The good news is, a lepto vaccine exists and is effective in offering protection against the disease! The current vaccine offered to dog gives protection against the 4 most common types of serovar. The vaccine is not considered part of the core vaccinations in dogs (unlike Rabies, Parvovirus and Distemper), but is something we routinely recommend at Coyote Ridge. The initial vaccination is done by giving two shots 4 weeks apart, and dogs need a yearly booster after that. There is some evidence that the vaccine may not offer the same level of protection for 12 months and that boosting right prior to the beginning of the wet season (late February/early March) may be the best way to offer maximal protection during the most problematic time of the year.

So if this blog talks to you and you have question about wether or not vaccinating your dog for lepto now may be a good idea, do not hesitate to reach out!

Ok, I lied - I actually have two (lepto vaccinated) mud monsters. Mud monster #2, Heidi

2. Tick Prevention

There are ticks in Colorado. If I had a dollar every time I heard the opposite, I could be sipping margaritas in Cabo by now!

Ticks are problematic because of the bacterial diseases they carry (the main ones in dogs being Ehrlechia, Anaplasma and Lyme disease). Since starting to practice in Colorado almost 4 years ago, I have seen dozens of dogs with ticks on their bodies, in their ears (where it is dark and warm and everyone leaves you alone - except the vet!) or clinically ill from tick borne diseases; and I cannot emphasize the importance of prevention enough.

In Colorado, ticks are most active from April to September and we recommend starting prevention in March just to be safe. I personally have my dogs on tick prevention year round as the weather in Colorado make it challenging to nail the window where prevention should be on board.

There are several different products available out there (topical or oral), with single doses lasting from one to three months. If you need guidance deciding what may be best for you and your dog, give us a call and we are always happy to help!

If you live or walk your dog in a at-risk (wooded / grassy/ tall grass) area, we also encourage you to check your dog for ticks regularly. If you notice a tick on your dog, remove it immediately using a pair of tweezers, grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pulling it straight out with steady pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick, as this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain embedded in the skin, leading to infection. If this sounds too terrible, you can also always just give us a call and we will be happy to remove the beast for you!

PSA - Ralph was thoroughly checked for ticks 20 minutes after this photo was taken.

3. Heart worm Preventi

Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal disease caused by a parasitic worm that lives in the heart and lungs of dogs. It is transmitted by mosquitoes, which are prevalent and growing in Colorado.

Colorado has historically been an area of relatively low heartworm prevalence but this is rapidly changing. The prevalence of heartworms in Colorado rose at greater than 3-fold the national average during the observation period, rising from 0.5% in 2013 to 0.84% in 2017, an increase of 67.5% in just four years. To put it in perspective, during that same time period, the prevalence of heartworms in the USA has risen by 20.7% (about a fourth). While heartworm disease is still not as common in Colorado as it is in the Midwest or the South, we see positive heartworm tests every year and strongly encourage year round monthly prevention, or at the very least, prevention from April to October. Prevention is done in the form of a delicious monthly preventive chew given every 30 days. While prevention is easy, actual treatment is long, challenging and costly.

So (and then I promise I’ll finally let you go!) does your dog really need a lepto vaccine, tick prevention and heartworm prevention? I think YES, and hopefully by now you’re thinking yes too! All of the things talked about here are relatively cheap to implement and can save a lot of head/heartache and money in the long term!

If you have any questions, we are always only a phone call or email away!

Take care and tell your dog I say hi and to stay out of trouble,

Dr Fauron

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