AREA FLOOD ALSO POSES THREATS FOR ANIMALS
By Doctor Tracie Daniels, NFAR Veterinarian
The recent flooding has caused problems for many of us with destruction of homes, property, businesses, roadways, and in some places contamination of drinking water. However, there are also some risks that our pets will also face that are good to review.
For dogs and cats, please remember that if your drinking water is not safe for humans, it is often also unsafe for pets. Follow recent guidelines posted by the county for purification of tap water, or use bottled water for pets. This is especially true for animals with impaired organ function such as geriatrics with kidney, liver, or intestinal diseases.
Internal parasites in dogs and cats will increase with the moisture, especially the hookworms which can cause loss of blood and life-threatening anemia. Humans can also get a skin infection, often in the feet or hands, by the hookworm larvae if they walk barefoot in areas with pet fecal contamination.
It has already been one of the worst flea years we have had in some time, but fleas will be on the rise. The moist conditions up under flooded mobile homes, buildings, and shaded areas will be populated by animals (domestic and wild) seeking refuge from the weather. They often bring in fleas under a structure. Please remember that if fleas also feed on humans. Fleas spread tapeworms and occasionally other diseases. Contact your veterinarian for advice on how to protect your pet, with a combination of home treatments, pet treatments, and yard treatments. Professional help may be necessary in some cases, especially if houses have been abandoned for a long time.
It has also been a banner tick year, and these humid conditions will also favor their reproduction. Ticks spread many diseases including Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and some carry a neurotoxin that can paralyze your pets completely.
All animals including cats, dogs, horses, goats, and camelids should have a current Rabies vaccine. It is state law for dogs and cats. Other vaccines that are recommended for dogs during this time include leptospirosis, distemper and parvo viruses, and in some settings lyme disease. Cats who roam or go outside should be protected with feline leukemia and FVRCP vaccines. Pet microchipping is also advised in case your pet gets separated from you, so it can be tracked back through a simple scanning of the pet’s skin.
For livestock, the risks are even greater. If you have horses, the rise in mosquitos will cause a higher risk for life-threatening brain inflammation caused by the viruses EEE and WNV (Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus). Contact your veterinarian for vaccine recommendations, but remember that if it is the first time your horse has ever received these vaccines, an additional dose three to six weeks later is necessary for full protection.
The wet weather will cause a release of large numbers of parasite larva onto the grazing pastures. In other words, it is a great time to be a worm with the moisture and growing grass. In species such as goats, one worm in particular, the “barber pole worm,” causes rapid death in many goats. There is regional resistance of this worm to many dewormers used in our industry today. Other farm species are also affected by greater numbers of parasite release including horses and cattle.
Leptospirosis is a bacteria found in this region that can also be of danger to humans. In livestock and pets, exposure is often highest from areas with standing water. There is a vaccine for dogs and cattle against leptospirosis. Signs in livestock can include bloody urine, abortions especially in cattle, goats and camelids, and also herd infertility. Infected animals can remain carriers and shed the organism in urine.
For horses, when lush rapidly growing grass is grazed, there can be an increase sterile abscesses within their hooves. If they are kept on small areas of wet ground that never dries out, the hooves can become soft and are susceptible to infection with thrush, canker, white line disease, and can result in nasty abscesses over time. Contact your veterinarian and farrier about treatments to help keep hooves healthy. Also, horses with previous episodes of founder or who have insulin resistance should not be allowed to graze free choice on rapidly growing grass, especially if recently fertilized.
Please contact your local veterinarian for further advice on protection of your pets during these wet summer months.
Dr. Daniels is currently the staff veterinarian at North Florida Animal Rescue in Wellborn, Florida and can be reached at 963-1354.