DEAR READERS: All police, military, security and other working dogs should wear cooling collars and vests during the heat waves we are all enduring. A wet bandanna or ice-pack neck-wrap can help cool us down, as well as our dogs. Be mindful of hot pavements and sidewalks that can burn dogs' paws and heat up their bodies quickly, causing potentially fatal heatstroke. Pouring cold water on a stricken dog can be lifesaving in the minutes before emergency veterinary services are administered. And no dog -- or child -- should ever be left alone in a car in hot weather, even with the air-conditioning running. If the car were to stall, it could become a tomb for anyone inside.
Wetter and warmer conditions mean more biting and disease-transmitting insects. For Alaska's and Canada's caribou and reindeer, this situation is a living hell, forcing them to higher ground where there is little, if any, food and water. In other areas of drought, deer congregate around water holes, increasing the animal-to-animal spread of chronic wasting disease, all while biting insects flourish and spread other diseases. Moose are especially at risk, with warmer winters meaning the proliferation of ticks that infest these endangered ungulates. Many moose die from anemia and secondary infection, including brainworm, which can be transmitted by the more resistant and overabundant (and invasive) white-tailed deer.
The warmer weather of spring and summer brings heightened risk of Potomac horse fever in the western U.S., and the disease can be deadly if left untreated. Because horses, donkeys and mules catch the disease by ingesting infected mayflies and other aquatic insects, the University of Wyoming extension service recommends keeping barn lights off in the evening. It also recommends treatment with antibiotics shortly after diagnosis. (Full story: Southeast Farm Press, March 30)
HUMAN-CAT-HUMAN TRANSMISSION OF SARS-COV-2 DOCUMENTED
A veterinarian in Thailand who had COVID-19 last year likely caught it from a sneezing cat infected with SARS-CoV-2, whose owner also had COVID-19, according to a study in the CDC's Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. All three were infected with genetically identical viruses. The case reinforces recommendations for people with COVID-19 to avoid close contact with pets, and suggests that veterinary professionals and workers in animal shelters should take precautions, says infectious diseases veterinarian Scott Weese at the University of Guelph in Ontario. (Full story: The New York Times, June 10)
As I have advised earlier in this column, some animals in our homes -- including cats, ferrets, mice and, more rarely, dogs -- can be infected by family members who are ill with COVID-19, even if the people have no symptoms. So every precaution needs to be taken. We are still facing a virus that can mutate, infect other species and become more infectious.
Vaccinating these various species at this time is neither advisable nor needed, as long as we all routinely wash our hands before and after handling them. If we do not feel well or have tested positive for COVID-19, we must wear protective masks to reduce the possibility of cross-species infection, or have a noninfected family member care for the animals.
INVASIVE SPECIES HEALTH THREAT IN FLORIDA
Rat lungworm parasites were found in Cuban treefrogs, an invasive species, in Volusia County, Florida, researchers reported in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases. The parasitic nematode can cause blindness, meningitis and brain damage in people, and can weaken or paralyze infected dogs' hind legs. Says lead researcher Heather Walden, "It's very possible that a dog could eat a Cuban treefrog, or any other potential anuran host, and become infected as a result." (Full story: University of Florida, Feb. 7)
VIAGRA HELPS DOGS WITH MEGAESOPHAGUS
The American Journal of Veterinary Research reported that liquid sildenafil, the active ingredient in erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, can help dogs with megaesophagus. The substance temporarily relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, enabling food to move into the dog's stomach. Study co-author veterinarian Jillian Haines says dogs with frequent, but not excessive, regurgitation experienced the most dramatic results. (Full story: Washington State University Insider, Feb. 21)
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