Creepy crawlies on your pets, what to expect for spooky season

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Parvovirus is high during the fall months in Lubbock, according to information provided Tuesday by Lubbock Animal Services. LAS recommended vaccinating pets and keeping untreated animals from roaming around yards or dog parks.

LAS said its most common health concerns for puppies and kittens include parasites, like worms, and transmissible viruses, like Parvovirus. Parvovirus is often found in large populations of unvaccinated, young puppies.

Megan Schroll, assistant director of Lubbock Animal Services, said Parvovirus lives in the ground and can contaminate an entire backyard and front yard, “So it’s very important to keep the puppies inside until they are fully vaccinated.”

Symptoms of Parvovirus include bloody diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, bloating and abdominal pain. LAS uses stool samples to test for Parvovirus.

The animal shelter reminds residents of ectoparasites, which is a critter that lives on another living creature’s skin. Gross!

Ectoparasites include fleas, ticks and mites.

Fleas can be seen by the human eye, but they are quick and good at hiding. One way to tell if a lighter-colored animal has fleas is to look for something that looks like pepper flakes in the fur, which are flea feces.

When your pet has fleas, it is necessary to treat not only the pet itself but also the home and yard. Dr. Eila Machado said a misconception is that pet owners do not need to treat or prevent fleas and ticks in the winter months. However, fleas can lay eggs in the home and survive for several months.

If your pet is itchy and scratched itself to the point of losing hair or the skin is crusting, Lubbock Animal Services recommended taking your pet to the vet to make sure it does not have fleas or mites.

Pets with flea allergies are more likely to suffer hair loss and crusty skin, said Schroll.

“The fleas get hardier and hardier every year,” said Dr. Machado.

Mites are microscopic, often found on the ears of stray kittens. They will scratch their ears, bleed and crust.

Mange is a kind of mite found mainly on dogs. They look like spiders under microscopes. Dr. Machado called them “cute,” following with “[they] burrow into the skin layer of the dog or cat where they like to live and feed.”

Unfortunately, mites are transmissible to humans too, which is another reason it’s so important to keep up with preventative care and treatment.

Ticks are visible and come in a range of sizes, from “tiny as a freckle” to fully-gorged, almost-grape-sized,” said Dr. Machado, a veterinarian with Lubbock Animal Services.

Veterinarian-recommended prevention medications are so effective that, if used correctly, your pet will not get infected when bit by a diseased tick, according to Dr. Machado. And the tick will die.

Many prevention medications and treatments require monthly doses, often given in the topical or oral form.

Schroll said the price of treating animals for illnesses, parasites and diseases far outweighs the cost of prevention.

To put it in perspective, depending on where you go, you might pay $20 for a vaccine versus thousands to treat the disease, said Dr. Machado.

The second most common infectious diseases include Bordetella and kennel cough. Dogs with kennel cough experience coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge, according to Dr. Machado.

Giardia is an organism that loves moist environments, like waterways and soil. Many species of Giardia exist, and some can infect both dogs and humans. However, Giardia isn’t as common in Lubbock because the desert lacks moisture. Also, the sun’s ultraviolet rays kill a lot of those microorganisms, said Dr. Machado.

The animal shelter recently had a Giardia outbreak. Shelter staff members wanted to warn pet owners about it because it still exists in Lubbock.

In addition to vaccinating and other forms of prevention, spaying and neutering pets can protect against certain diseases, cancers and sicknesses, said Dr. Machado.

She described the practice as a “twofold,” saying, “It’s helping decrease the amount of unwanted animals in Lubbock, and it’s also helping the medical and health status of the animal itself.”

Dr. Machado added, vaccinating your pets increases herd immunity among the stray animal population.

Lubbock Animal Services partners with P.E.T.S. Clinic in Lubbock, which offers low-cost vet care in case someone is struggling to afford preventative care and treatments for their pets, Schroll added.

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