Spring dangers to pet health, how to keep your furry friends safe

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Spring has suddenly started in Utah. The temperatures move up; the plants jump up from the ground, trees start pushing out leaves. But, along with the nicer turn of the weather, new dangers lurk for your pet and sometimes you. If you and your pets are part of Utah’s active lifestyle, there are some important things to know.

Dr. Arshiya Sayeed-Smith, a doctor of veterinary medicine from “Utah’s Bad Dog Veterinary Services,” which provides extra services and relief help to local veterinary services and hospitals, talked with ABC4 about the dangers your pet can face in the Spring.

One of the scariest Spring dangers is rattlesnakes. They start waking up, and curious dogs on trails can get in trouble. The poisonous vipers are common along the Wasatch front. They can be very problematic for dogs if you hike the trails.

Dr. Sayeed-Smith says, “You have to remember there are a lot of variables that can happen with a snake bite. The snakes themselves can deliver specific amounts of venom, depending on how they perceive the danger. On top of that, the size of the snake can make a difference as well as the size of the dog.”

She recommends that if you live in an area with snakes or hiking on the trails, you keep a sharp lookout. She also says there is a vaccine available to people whose dogs run the trail. It won’t stop all issues from the snake bite but can help lessen the severity.

“I believe in keeping dogs on leashes,” Sayeed-Smith says, “You can control where they go on the trail, and the pets won’t be sticking their faces into holes or rocks where an unwanted wildlife encounter could happen.”

Ticks are next on the list. The doctor explained there had been an upswing in tick migration. Here in Utah, the American Dog Tick and Rocky Mountain Wood Tick are the ones encountered. These are considered hard ticks.

According to Utah State University, “Ticks are hardy and can last months to years without feeding. In Utah, adult ticks are most likely encountered between March and early-to-mid-July but are worst during the rainy season. They go dormant when it is hot and dry.”

You should watch your dog carefully if they have been spending time outside or in the woods, and look for ticks. The insect can make pets and people sick.

Sayeed-Smith says, “Dogs can get fevers, joint pains, rashes, ticks can be on dogs, cats and people.”

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Mosquitoes can be packing another danger for your pets. It’s called heartworm disease. Cats and dogs are very susceptible to heartworms. Ferrets can also be extremely susceptible. According to the FDA, “It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis. The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito.  The dog is the definitive host, meaning that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside a dog.”

Dr. Sayeed-Smith says, “There are medications available for heartworm disease to both prevent and treat the parasite. If the infections are left unchecked, it can be like spaghetti and lead to heart failure in your pet.”

She continues, “Medications are available your pet can take year-round and vaccinations effective for 6 and 12 months. We recommend you treat your pet against heartworm all year long.”

Next up are spiders, wasps, and bees. In Utah, we have insects and arachnids that can cause issues with your pets from allergic reactions to stings to potentially deadly spider bites.

Immature Black Widow Spider

The Black Widow spider is the most dangerous to both pets and humans in Utah. In pets, spider venom can cause blood coagulation or neurologic issues. Sometimes it can be deadly. Keep an eye out for their webs, and create piles of things in your yard where they can be. Keeping your yard clean is good for your pets. Because of black widows, it is recommended that people wear gloves when working around their gardens or moving firewood.

Wasps and bees can cause severe allergic reactions in your pets, Dr. Sayeed-Smith says “If your pet is stung, getting them to the vet hospital to stop the virulent reaction is very important, the reaction can cause issues like hives and facial swelling, rarely anaphylactic shock. and the shot will help mitigate the effects.”

You may also want to keep Benadryl on hand for both you and your pets against a sting.

A dog on a hike. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Sayeed-Smith says there is another danger lurking in Utah’s nature areas. It’s called Leptospirosis. If you are out hiking with your pet, and say your dog comes into contact with infected deer urine, contaminated soil, water food or bedding, or a bite from an infected wild animal.

She adds, “There is a vaccine to protect your pet from this disease, you should ask yourself what kind of lifestyle you and your dog have and decide what would be best for your pet and you. Leptospirosis has a secondary danger it is zoonotic, which even though is not common can happen your dog can pass it to you.”

The disease can cause liver and kidney damage to both you and your pets.

If you are concerned about spring health protection ask your veterinarian for assistance in helping you decide what’s best to protect your pet.

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