As pets head outdoors this spring, owners should remember they aren’t the only creatures outside.
Dogs and cats can pick up fleas and disease-bearing ticks in backyards and out in the woods. Regular preventative care, including monthly medicine, can make it a safer place to play out there.
In fact, veterinarians say heartworm transmission is 100 percent preventable with medicine. Medicine can guard against fleas and ticks, too. Should pet owners discover a tick, experts say, it needs to be removed carefully.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers this advice: “ ... remove it immediately by treating the area with rubbing alcohol and plucking the parasite with tweezers. It is important to be careful when removing the tick, however, as any contact with the tick’s blood can potentially transmit infection to your cat or even to you. And throwing a tick in the trash or flushing it down the toilet will not kill it. Instead, drop the tick in a jar of alcohol to prevent it from reattaching itself to your pet.”
According to Maria Tyger, owner at Gittler’s Aquarium & Aviary in the Moxham section of Johnstown, smaller pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs are not as prone to fleas and ticks because they usually are kept indoors. If a household has a dog or cat that spends time outside, however, it increases the chances that the parasites can spread to those smaller pets,
“Be aware of what you’re dealing with,” Tyger said. “Anything with fur can get fleas.”
Small animal flea-killing sprays are available but should only be used if a pet-owner notices a problem. Bunnies, hamsters and guinea pigs all lick their fur to clean it, so they would ingest the chemicals in the spray, she added. To keep those smaller critters healthy, Tyger said they need plenty of hay and alfalfa to move the hair they ingest through their system.
And having healthy pets doesn’t just stop at watching for bugs.
Susan Danchanko, who owns Pet Zone Inn in Southmont, said dental care for dogs is key.
“You should always try to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis, because poor dental health can lead to problems such as infections or losing teeth,” she said. “If you wait until they get older, a lot of times they needed teeth pulled, which involves putting them under at the vet. You want to start young and keep their teeth healthy.”
A good teeth cleaning is part of the business’ grooming process, but Danchanko said she recommends brushing even between grooming. Pet owners can use a regular toothbrush but need to purchase a dog toothpaste with enzymes.
Regular grooming can help alert owners to problems that might have been unnoticed, she added.
“Grooming, we don’t look at it as a luxury. It really is a necessity. It can prevent health problems.
Countless times, we’ve had customers come in, and we noticed something while bathing the dog. The owners had no idea. Obviously, grooming keeps them more comfortable, but it can also prevent some health problems down the road.”