Keep It Safe For People And Pets
By Margot K. Vahrenwald, DVM, CVJ
It’s finally summer and we are getting to celebrate the lifting of the COVID-19 restrictions and feeling more ourselves. But that doesn’t mean that we are free from threats to human and pet health. Make sure, along with exercise and fun, that you are keeping your pets safe and healthy.
As the world shut down in 2020 and demand became unprecedented for a dog or two to keep us sane through lockdown, the supply of adoptable and purchasable dogs dropped and led to increased importation of puppies across borders. The result of that led to an also unprecedented problem of increased potential rabies exposure because of country of origin and/or falsified vaccination credentials. Last month, on June 14, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control suspended imports of dogs and puppies from more than 100 countries.
The CDC statement reads, “This suspension applies to all dogs, including puppies, emotional support dogs, and dogs that traveled out of the United States and are returning from a high-risk country.” The temporary suspension applies to all dogs, including puppies, emotional support dogs, and dogs that traveled out of the United States and are returning from high-risk countries.
Colorado is endemic for rabies, especially along the Front Range. As of mid-June, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) reported 25 animals confirmed positive for rabies (19 of them skunks). Twenty-one domestic pets and eight people are known or suspected of exposure to rabies, leading to quarantine for the animals and, for the humans, a very expensive and painful protocol of treatment. The rough cost for an individual’s treatment is $3,000 based on 2018 estimates, and includes a course of rabies immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine given over a two-week period.
Plague — remember that from the Middle Ages? — has never gone away. The fleas found on many small mammals, such as prairie dogs, carry the bacterium Yersinia pestis. This bacterium is transmitted via flea bites, contact with the tissues/body fluids of an infected animal or person, or in the case of the pneumonic plague in people, via coughing or sneezing.
The tick-borne diseases Lyme, Ehrlichia and Anaplasmosis are also on the rise, impacting dogs and people. Ticks are the perfect vectors for these and other diseases and very often an initial tick bite is missed. The Ixodes species of ticks, which can carry Lyme disease, are established and moving ever westward in Colorado while the Lone Star tick, a carrier of both Lyme and Ehrlichia, is moving up from Texas.
What can you do to protect yourself and your pets?
1. Keep your pets vaccinated and current on their rabies vaccinations. The vaccines are safe and effective — very rare for reactions (<0.005 percent). Rabies titers are not accepted by any municipality in the U.S. as proof of vaccination per federal and state regulations.
2. Do not handle mammalian wildlife, dead or alive — particularly bats, skunks and raccoons. Call Animal Control for assistance at 720-913-1311.
3. Keep your dogs away from prairie dog colonies and any deceased wildlife.
4. Check pets and people after hiking for fleas and ticks, use topical repellants and, if traveling to other states with dogs, consider topical or oral preventative.
5. For dogs, make sure that your dog’s annual heartworm testing also screens for Lyme, Ehrlichia and Anaplasamosis.
Despite the bugs and heat, enjoy a safe and fun summer.
Dr. Margot Vahrenwald is the owner of Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center at 2255 Oneida St. For more information, visit www.parkhillvet.com.