Now that we are smack in the middle of “Back to School” season, this is the perfect time to remind everyone about basics of veterinary care. While summer activities and vacations have taken precedence for the past few months, pet care should never take a break, especially when it comes to pet parasites and disease.
If you have ever had the experience of trying to flee from a flea problem, yours was a hard lesson to learn. Once you realize your pet has fleas, your infestation has existed in your environment for a minimum of four weeks! That’s plenty of time for multiple flea generations to set up housekeeping and hunker down for the winter. In fact, some of the worst indoor flea infestations occur in the dead of winter.
Mother Nature does help by killing off the outdoor flea population with a couple of hard frosts, followed by a cold stretch. However, those fleas that were able to latch on to furry, and not so furry hosts (yes, I do mean YOU) to hitch a ride indoors, can quickly start reproducing, and you know “the rest of the story.” Thumping pet feet and the scratch, scratch all through the night lead to sleepless nights and tired parents who have to get two-legged family members off to school bright and early.
Back to School Lesson No. 1: Use a veterinary-prescribed flea control product and use it as directed all year round for every pet, whether that pet lives indoors or out.
I think most pet owners, at one time or another, enjoy being in close proximity to their pets. I know I do. I want my cats to get me hairy by laying on my lap or snuggling close with me at night. True confessions: my cat, Noodles, slept ON my pillow every night. Yep, right next to my head! And, my beloved, “too cute for words” Welsh Corgi, Betsy Louise, eats any kind of manure that is not her own.
Back to School Lesson No. 2: Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for routine stool examinations and de-worming for all of your pets. Modern heartworm and flea control products often contain medication to keep your pet free of internal, as well as external parasites. Seek and follow your veterinarian’s advice about the appropriate product to protect your pet and you from an intestinal parasite infection.
Speaking of preventing infections, just because your housecat never sets its soft, little paws outdoors or your dog has never had a mean bone in its body, does not mean your pet shouldn’t receive a rabies vaccine. Having experienced two separate home invasions by bats while living in two very different houses, I am proof that rabies vaccines for exclusively indoor pets are a “Must-Do!” In both situations, my cats were the sentinels as they leapt like Super Man from tall buildings (dressers and furniture) to catch what they thought was a “bird” in their homes.
And, after living and working with pets for 40 years, I can tell you that even the most loving pet can and will bite when it is in pain or feels threatened. The standard joke among veterinary professionals when told “Oh, he would never bite anyone” in reference to a family pet means you may want to proceed cautiously. The next line after dodging gnashing teeth of said loving patient is usually “I’ve never seen him act like that!”
Lesson No. 3: All pets should receive rabies vaccinations (as well as other vaccinations) as recommended by a veterinarian. The rabies virus has been found in wildlife throughout Ohio. Rabies is a deadly and preventable disease and a human health risk! Please don’t take a chance with your pet’s life — or your own!
If you have ever experienced the heartbreak of a lost or missing pet, you may know how invaluable proper pet confinement, licensing and micro-chipping can be. Animal shelters and pet rescues are overflowing with pets that have lost their happy homes. One can’t help but wonder how bewildered these pets must feel when their sense of security and life routine are taken from them. Is it any wonder that pets that have lived through “rescue” often graduate to new homes with behavioral baggage that can be challenging, to say the least?
Lesson No. 4: Invest in puppy socialization and dog obedience classes, proper pet confinement, pet identification and licensing, and keep your cat indoors where it is safe. Don’t let your pet be another statistic in a long line of rescued pets in need of a loving home.
And now for the quiz. Is your veterinary homework done?
Dr. Bonnie Jones is co-owner of Delphos Animal Hospital which she operates with her husband, John H. Jones, DVM. She was valedictorian and Outstanding Senior Clinician of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1985.