PARASITES...the Party Poopers of Spring

Greetings...This is my annual post about PARASITES...if you're having trouble sleeping I promise this information will send you off to dreamland, but we will love you forever if you take the time to read it!

Every year around Spring Break time, more than just the bears and birds come out of hibernation. Underneath all the pretty daffodils and green grass, demon parasites are thawing out and they're headed for our pets. They have many names and cause many little ailments - everything from itching to diarrhea and dehydration. The good news, though, is that if you take precautions NOW, none of this stuff is a big deal.

At HH, when this time of year comes, we amp up our play yard and equipment germicide practices (we actually go beyond what the USDA recommends), and are hyper-vigilant about the signs and symptoms of these buggers. We do all of this to help keep those pathogens out of our facility, but we need your help to keep pets from coming IN to the facility with them as well. Even if ALL of us do our part, these things can still be found in places you'd never expect, so it's good to be aware. Most local vets are in communication with us as they see these things come into their clinic, and have been great about blessing our protocols and answering our questions.

Below are some common pathogens and some things you can do to tell them to hit the road!

1. INTESTINAL WORMS - Tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, and so on. These are NOT the same as heartworms, which affect the heart and are transmitted through mosquitoes. The larvae of a lot of these worms live in soil, so your dog can be infected just from having contact with the GROUND. They can also be transmitted through feces - you take your dog on a walk and he walks through a spot where poop was a week ago, then licks his paws when you get home...bam. Not to worry though, worms are typically easy and inexpensive to treat. Some of them can even be treated with over the counter products. As a general rule, I get a de-wormer from my vet for my own dogs once a year just to be safe.

2. PARASITES - two of the most common are Giardia and Coccidia. Both live in the intestines and cause diarrhea, vomiting, and other stomach issues. Transmission is similar in that a dog can become infected from swallowing anything that might have traces of feces on it. You'll need your vet's help to treat these, but both are fairly easy to take care of.

3. VIRUSES - some that we see more commonly in this area are Erlichia and parvovirus (parvo) in puppies. I'll also throw kennel cough in this one. Parvo does have a vaccination to prevent it, but still worth mentioning as this is a common time of year for it to be seen (an article was recently published in Northwest Arkansas stating that this year's parvo strain is particularly strong and they've seen a higher number of cases than what is typical). Erlichia is caused from tick bites, and affects the dog's blood. It isn't contagious dog-to-dog, but ticks will be coming out in full force before you know it so it's best to be prepared. Kennel cough is an odd bird - traditionally it was caused by Bordatella Bronchiseptica bacteria (your vet vaccinates for a few strains of this). But in recent years, most cultures from where pets have had KC symptoms have shown that the cause is actually a bacteria called mycoplasma...something we can't vaccinate against. Lovely. Anyway, again these treatments will require vet assistance - typically an antibiotic.

Now, here's what you can do to help keep this junk out of your house (AND mine!) :)

1. Be cautious of the Dog Park. We love the Conway dog park, truly (our name is on the sign!), but you're asking for it if you take your dog out there this time of year. The lack of poop pickup makes it like a parasite paradise. There's also zero oversight - no one is checking to make sure dogs that come out there aren't sick or verifying that they have been vaccinated. We also hear very high numbers of folks taking their dogs out there before the 6-month age requirement posted on the rules (given the tough parvo strain this year that's a CRAZY dangerous thing to do). If you must go, take your own water AND water bowl. And pick up poop immediately as you see it.

2. Keep your backyard picked up. A lot of this stuff may come from poop initially but don't forget, once it spreads, the random toys and pinecones in your yard are probably harboring some of it too. Even if other dogs don't have access to your backyard it doesn't mean a raccoon or possum hasn't been back there to leave parasite presents for you. There are also some good products you can attach to your water hose if you'd like to "treat" your own yard.

3. KNOW if your dog is a Poop Eater. If you are one of the poor souls who parents a poop-eater, I am afraid you are just going to have to deal with these things from time to time. There are supplements to help discourage poop-eating but I honestly don't know that any of them work well enough to justify the cost. For you guys, keeping watch on your dog at all times is probably your best bet. **Please TELL the HH staff if you suspect your dog falls into this category. We bag every poop as fast as possible but it is still helpful for us to know if we need to keep an extra eye out for yours.**

4. Don't interact with other dogs on walks (unless it's someone you know). Remember a dog could pick up worms from something he sniffs in the dirt, then pass it to your dog when they meet nose-to-nose on a walk.

5. Keep your dog on flea and tick prevention. If you take them off of it for winter, start again right now. Many heartworm prevention pills also include a prevention for certain intestinal worms, so you can sometimes kill two birds with one stone there. Flea and tick prevention is required for daycare/boarding. We relax on it a bit during winter but again, we are already in fairly consistent spring temps so this is already back on our radar. (This is one of my favorite topics so if you want more info on these products I am happy happy to share)

6. Don't bring your dog to daycare if they have symptoms. Most can be treated quickly and easily, but it'll be helpful for your pup to get rest and keep from sharing his ailment with others. Call us if you need advice on this and we can tell you how long to stay at home.

OK, if you are still reading, bless your human heart. This info is long and not thrilling to read, but I know you all appreciate that it is our job to keep YOU informed and your dog SAFE. As I said, even if all of us do 100% of everything here, we're still going to see these things pop up, but we CAN reduce the occurrence of them. I am happy to do more education on any of these ailments if you have questions. Most of our local vets have been great friends to HH and are always in communication with us about what they're seeing and always offer help and answers to our questions, so I'm happy to share that info with you all anytime too. THANK YOU! -- Lacey