7 Things You Need To Know About Protecting Your Pet From Insect-Borne Diseases

woman with dog outside

As the weather warms here in Wisconsin, many pet owners will be spending increasing amounts of time outdoors with their pets. With recommendations from UW Veterinary Care’s Primary Care service, here’s what you need to know to keep your pet safe while enjoying the sunshine.

  1. Insect prevention should take place year-round, not just in the warmer months.

Although insects and arachnids such as mosquitos and ticks are not typically active during the winter months in Wisconsin, several tick species can become active when the temperature is above freezing. During springtime temperature fluctuations, it is difficult to know when to begin preventative treatment. Instead, a much safer option is opting for year-round preventive therapies to ensure that your pet is adequately protected.

  1. Several types of bugs and parasites can transmit disease to your pet.

cat on leash outside

These include mosquitos (which can transmit heartworm), ticks (which can transmit Lyme disease, anaplasmosis or ehrlichiosis) and fleas (which can transmit tapeworms). Additionally, several critters can cause generalized itchiness to your pet, including mites, lice and fleas.

  1. There are many different preventative treatment options for protecting your pet from insect-borne diseases.

Your vet can help you to find the best treatment option for your pets. Preventative treatments range from monthly pills to flea and tick collars to yearly injections, depending on the target species and the pet owner’s preference.

  1. Some pets are at a higher risk for contracting an insect-borne disease than others.

Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors, such as hunting dogs, or pets that live in high-risk counties in Wisconsin are more likely to contract an insect-borne disease. You can visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council parasite prevalence maps to learn more about disease prevalence where you live or where you will be traveling.

  1. Visually searching for ticks on your pet should not be a substitute for preventative therapy.
Report Tick Encounters
Help prevent tick encounters and tick-borne diseases with The Tick App, developed as part of a collaborative research study between the Midwest and Northeast Centers of Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease. By sharing when and where you encounter ticks, you will help researchers understand how and where people are exposed and design better prevention strategies. The app also provides information on tick identification, safely removing ticks, preventing tick bites and more.

Even though it is important to search for and remove ticks from your pet during the summer high season, this does not replace preventative tick therapies. Nymphal or immature ticks can spread Lyme disease, and at about one millimeter in size (similar to a poppy seed) they are difficult to see with the naked eye.

  1. Preventative treatment options are safe for your pet.

If your pet has underlying health issues, be sure to discuss treatment options with your vet. For most pets, however, preventative treatment is much safer and less invasive than treating your pet for insect-borne diseases.

  1. Your pet should still be screened for insect-transmitted diseases every year or two, depending on your preventative treatment method.

This will ensure that the disease is diagnosed and treated sooner rather than later. If your pet is displaying symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy or joint pain, be sure to see your veterinarian, as these can be signs of an insect-borne disease.

Maddie Arthur

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