Dog Smarts: Is It Spring Yet?

We get it. Spring has been a long time coming. But we’re almost 80% sure it’s here. And no one knows that better than your dog.

As you take to your backyard and break out the barbecue pit, we thought we’d get a little perspective from our veterinarian friends on how to prepare for a fun, safe season outside with your dog.

Our Dog Grove neighbors, Dr. Anna Migneco and Dr. Erin Willis from Hillside Animal Hospital, were kind enough to answer a few questions and share their knowledge with us and, in turn, you.

We’ll start in the yard.

What are some “backyard dangers” to dogs people may not know about?

Even small amounts of standing water can harbor parasites and provide a mosquito breeding ground so it is important to eliminate any traces as soon as you notice them. Heartworms are spread by mosquitos and are very common in the Midwest. Additionally, fences do not provide barriers against wildlife (even in the city). Many small mammals travel though backyards and carry fleas, ticks and other parasites to your pet. It is important to protect your pet with flea/tick preventatives and screen for intestinal parasites even if they never leave your backyard.

What are your best “dog proofing” steps outdoors in the yard and elsewhere that people can take now that it’s starting to warm up?

The best way to ‘dog proof’ your yard after the winter is to make sure your fence is sturdy and there aren’t any holes where your dog could escape. Additionally, clean out any old sticks/leaves to make sure there isn’t anything your dog could injure itself on.

What flea/tick preventative do you recommend?  Are there any you specifically don’t recommend?

We currently recommend and offer Nexgard and Frontline, which are oral and topical (respectively) monthly flea and tick preventatives sold by Boehringer Ingelheim. We do recommend year-round flea/tick preventative sold through any veterinarian. We do not recommend any over the counter flea/tick products and urge clients to use caution when purchasing them because not only may they be ineffective, they could potentially be dangerous to their pet or other pets in the home.

With the cold Spring that we’ve seen, what do you expect relative to fleas & ticks this year? Better? Worse?

This spring has been relatively cold, but in general we had a mild winter. Typically the flea/tick population is larger the summer after a mild winter because consistently freezing temperatures are required to kill fleas and ticks.

Are there any tick-borne diseases that people should be on the lookout for? What are the symptoms?

There are many diseases that ticks can carry, including Lyme disease. The most common tick-borne disease in Missouri is Ehrlichiosis. There are a multitude of symptoms of Ehrlichiosis, but the most common include fever, limping, swollen lymph nodes, and bleeding disorders. Erhlichiosis can be detected with a blood test and is treatable, though serious.

Do dogs get seasonal allergies? Is there anything that can be done to alleviate symptoms?

Dogs can be affected with seasonal allergies, just like people are. The signs can range from runny nose, red eyes and sneezing to itching and skin/ear infections. There are many different treatments for allergies and the best thing an owner can do if they suspect their dog has an allergy is to bring him/her to their veterinarian for an examination.

Are there any particular concerns (illness, parasites, etc) with taking your dog swimming in lakes or rivers?

While many dogs enjoy swimming in lakes in rivers, there are a few diseases that a dog can pick up. Many intestinal parasites (such as Giardia) can be acquired through contaminated water, so it is advisable to keep your dog from drinking free-standing water. Additionally, lake water and rivers can be contaminated with diseases such as leptospirosis, which are passed on from infected wildlife. Leptospirosis can be prevented with a vaccination.

With a lot of backyard BBQ’s going on, are there any specific foods that people need to make sure they keep away from their dogs?

With few exceptions, dogs should not eat human foods. In particular, bones found in barbequed meat can be choking hazards. Additionally, they can predispose a dog to pancreatitis, which is a serious condition that typically requires hospitalization.

Any other tips or words of wisdom for this Spring and Summer?

It is easy to keep your pet healthy if you take the proper precautions and are prepared. Don’t let any of these hazards keep you from enjoying the great outdoors with your pets this Spring and Summer!

Thank you Drs. Migneco and Willis. It looks like the answer is, “yes.” Spring is finally here. We’ll head outside immediately.

Dr. Anna grew up in St Louis, watching her veterinarian father perform surgeries from a very young age. Naturally, after obtaining a degree in Biology from Saint Louis University, she went to veterinary school and graduated in 2014 from the University of Missouri. After graduation, Dr. Anna moved to Kansas City to practice veterinary medicine for a few years before coming home in the spring of 2017 to work with her Hillside family again. Dr. Anna now lives in St Louis with her wife, Erin and their 6 animals. In her free time she enjoys traveling and hiking with her dogs. ​

Dr. Erin grew up in Grain Valley, Missouri. She studied Animal Science as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri while also playing sousaphone for Marching Mizzou. After 3 years of undergraduate coursework, she was accepted into MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Erin completed her DVM degree in May of 2014. She practiced for 3 years in the Kansas City area before moving to St. Louis in 2017. Dr Erin has a keen interest in soft tissue and orthopedic surgery, as well as ophthalmology and dentistry.  Dr. Erin resides in St. Louis with her wife, Anna. Together they have 6 furbabies: 4 cats, Simon, Neko, Piper, Peter, and 2 dogs, Archer Potato and Oliver Pesto.  In her spare time she enjoys traveling, hiking, drinking coffee, playing musical instruments, and spending time with her family. ​