Infectious Diseases: A Dangerous Increase in the Chicagoland Area
I am often asked, “Do I really need to vaccinate my pet? She stays indoors except for brief, supervised periods on the deck or on the screened-in sun porch”. I also hear, “Our dog never has exposure to raccoons. He is only goes outside to urinate and defecate”.
Consider the following statistics and decide for yourselves whether safe, effective preventatives and vaccines make sense for your pets. Remember, it only takes one animal bite or walk through damp grass harboring bacteria to expose pets and humans to potentially fatal disease. Common carriers of infectious diseases include raccoons, deer, rodents, and skunks; as the human population increases and we move into these animals’ territories, so does our exposure to the pathogens they carry.
• The percentage of positive raccoons with leptospirosis (a potentially fatal and zoonotic disease in humans and animals alike) in Cook County has increased from 34% to 43% and raccoon population has increased
• Analysis from the Veterinary Medical Database shows that dogs less than 15 pounds are more likely diagnosed with leptospirosis since they are less likely to be vaccinated
• Greater than 40% of coyotes necropsied are infected with heartworm
• Skunk rabies has been reported in Texas and Missouri. A cow has tested positive for fox rabies in southern Illinois; both the skunk and fox populations have doubled in 2013 and 2014.
• 70% of skunks and raccoons exhibiting neurologic abnormalities in Cook County were positive for Distemper at necropsy
• 63 bats tested positive (or 4%) for Rabies in Illinois in 2012. Over 40,000 each year receive rabies post-exposure prophylaxis treatment. Bat bites can be tiny and often go unnoticed.
It is also important to recognize the flaws in reporting of animal disease; veterinarians lack the support system of our human counterparts. The CDC only requires veterinarians to report cases of rabies, not all communicable or zoonotic disease incidences. How much do we underestimate the actual presence of rabies, leptospirosis, heartworm, and other parasitic or infectious diseases in our midst?
Running on Empty: Stay Safe with Your Pet
I am happy to report my Cavalier, Leo, has dropped a few Lbs. after Doggie Boot Camp in the Northwoods! He romped through the forest, leading a safe, visible distance ahead of me on the trails. Because we were off-roading and off-leashing through leaves, over hills, and around fallen trees, he had some serious exercise. We know how important flea, tick and heartworm preventatives are in the warmer months; what else is there to know if you are going to exercise safely with your pet?
1. Dogs under a year of age should not run long distances or too strenuously. This period of growth may extend up to 20 months in giant breeds. Growing bodies and bones need extra TLC and conditioning and tired muscles cause excessive pressure on the bones. Wait until after puppyhood to train for a 5K.
2. Build endurance slowly. Start a healthy dog with up to a mile at each run, gradually adding 10% to your weekly mileage to safely condition. If you are running and your dog is slowing down, lagging behind you, or lies down whenever you break, you may have pushed it too far. Time to head back! Your pet may not be ready for longer distances or have pain.
3. Fuel up as you exercise. Every 15 minutes or so, consider a little kibble and some cool water. Don’t let your dog gulp icy water, mouthfuls of food or air; bloating in deep-chested breeds can be a concern and it’s best to make small, frequent stops if you plan on anything more than a few miles on Fido’s feet. It is best to avoid heavy meals both an hour before and an hour after running. In general, a diet rich in meat protein and digestible calcium with lots of micronutrients, good bacteria and enzymes will help your dog maintain a healthy body and endure rigorous workouts.
4. Dogs don’t sweat except though their feet. In order to cool off, they have a more limited mechanism to expel excess body temperature, panting. Smaller, flat-nosed dogs have an especially hard time keeping comfortable in the heat. Know what your dog’s “normal” resting heart rate and respiratory rate are. While running, if your dog has a wide open mouth, tongue hanging far out of his mouth, or appears to be “smiling” while panting, slow down your run! If your dog continues to pant after a few minutes of rest, head home. Cool water on the pads or rinsing off in water may help body temperature return to normal. If your dog has gums that appear to be brick red, experiences vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, or is dazed, call your vet immediately.
5. Dogs have sensitive foot pads and may not let you know when they are hurting. Run during the cooler mornings and evenings in shady spots and stay off of hot blacktop. Check pads daily for small cuts or scrapes. Emollient creams are available to help keep pads supple and healthy.