Back To School

September 3, 2012

ImageEach August, “back to school” brings fast memories of new clothes, school supplies and parents happy to have schedule and routine back in their family’s days.  But, “back to school” isn’t just for our two-legged students.  Fall is also a good time to include a check-up for your family cats and dogs. While they may not need new backpacks and notebooks, the family pet’s health needs equal attention to ensure a healthy school year for the whole family.

In our island communities, both indoor and outdoor pets can be exposed to a variety of parasites all year around.  This means that dogs and cats can pick up specific internal and external parasites that can affect their health and your family’s health.  Even pets who stay indoors can be exposed to parasites from the bottoms of our shoes or from those that fly into our homes un-invited.

Some parasites, such as hookworms can cause serious skin infections in humans.  Other parasites, such as roundworms, are often present in the sand of our beach communities.  Roundworms, if transmitted to humans, can cause blindness in extreme cases.  Our pets come into contact with these parasites frequently, so our goal as veterinarians is to make sure your pet and your family are protected through prevention.  How can you ensure this prevention happens? T he heartworm and intestinal parasite medication you receive from your veterinarian provides this prevention when administered monthly, as prescribed.

On the islands, the most common external parasites pet families know are fleas and ticks.  Summer time heat and humidity provide the perfect breeding ground for these pesky critters and they will stay active throughout our relatively warm winter.  The most common sign of a flea infestation is increased scratching by one or more of your pets. You may also see tiny black or red dots on surfaces where they sleep.  If you suspect your pet has fleas, we have to treat the fleas on the pet and the flea population in your home.  While they are pesky parasites, fleas can also result in serious health problems for your pet, such as anemia (blood loss), tapeworms and skin disease.  If you suspect that your dog or cat has fleas, it is important to use your monthly flea medications, either oral or liquid topicals, every 30 days, as the product is indicated. Your veterinarian may even suggest that you use these products more frequently, but you must only do this under their direct supervision.

While making sure our family pet’s health is always protected, it’s important to consider their behavior during “back to school” times, too.  Has your family been together a lot during the summer?  Have you traveled with your pets? Likely, your pet has become quite used to the family being together.  Abrupt schedule changes and longer periods of loneliness may lead to some different behaviors in your cats and dogs.  Some easy tips to remember in your new fall routine can include evening play time with your family and pets.  Fall afternoons are the perfect time to take a long walk on the beach. Don’t forget that we also have many facilities offering pet day care that can provide some transition periods of attention for your pet.

This time of year, don’t forget that your veterinarian is your pet’s health advocate and “back to school” time is our reminder to check your pet’s medical records.  Your veterinarian is your first line of support and defense for preventive healthcare.  Annual visits to the veterinarian for parasite and disease prevention, bloodwork and physical exams (just like with our 2-legged children) are crucial to your pet’s and your family’s well- being.  Have you checked your pet’s supply of monthly prevention medications? Call your vet to get your pet’s fall check-up  to make sure your family has many more years of happy summertime memories and “back to school” moments together.

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