by Gigi McWhirter

The dog days of summer are soon over but some of the dangers remain far beyond monsoon season and into the fall. Animal owners should be aware of diseases that are spread by mosquitoes and ticks that really enjoy the heat.

It is important to know that in our area, because of the temperature range, we can see these blood-sucking, disease-carrying pests all year long. Also, even though your pets may be indoor-only animals, both ticks and mosquitoes can still get into your house or other enclosed areas and leave their nasty aftermath behind. A leaky faucet or sprinkler can be a perfect harbor for mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes and ticks could easily be called grim reapers because of all the havoc they can cause not only to animals, but to humans as well. It is essential that you protect your entire family – human and furry – against them. You should consult with a reputable exterminator for in the house and the outside perimeter. They will help you develop a plan of attack. If you can get your neighbors on board, that is even better – because those little suckers can move. Have a discussion with your veterinarian, not Dr. Google, about prevention for your animals, including horses and livestock.

Here are a some of the illnesses your pets can incur from a mosquito bite:

West Nile Virus: According to Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine “Infection of the West Nile virus (WNV) causes a potentially fatal encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord). WNV affects a variety of animals including birds, horses, humans and other animals.” In horses, an annual vaccination is recommended and is typically given in the early spring. Also of concern is Sleeping Sickness, another central nervous system virus in horses which is spread through mosquitoes and horse flies. Prevention is insect control and vaccinations.

Heartworm: A thread-like parasitic roundworm that attaches to the inside of a dog’s heart. The body can extend into the lungs. A mosquito bites your animal and transfers the larvae to the host. Without treatment it grows into an adult Heartworm. Prevention can be in the form of a monthly chewable or topical application. An injection given by a licensed veterinarian every six months is also available. Talk to your veterinarian about what is the best choice for your pet.

Ticks: Those nasty little buggers – can pass on disease to humans and animals with one simple bite. In dogs, the most common infections are Ehrlichia and Anaplasma. In people, we need to be concerned about a disease called Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever. If you travel out of the central desert of Arizona, you and your pets can run into the ticks that spread Lyme Disease. Once again, talk to your vet about tick control measures.

There is an annual test that your veterinarian can perform that tests for Heartworm, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis and Lyme Disease. Should your pet be diagnosed with any of these infections, your veterinarian will develop a treatment plan.

If you want to get good, but scary, information about tickborne diseases of the U.S., especially in humans, check-out cdc.gov.

Always consult with your veterinarian or primary care provider with questions and concerns about any health-related issues. Remember, prevention is way less expensive than the cure.

Happy Tails!