I'm always the last to know. I again missed a special pet-related day. April 10 was Hug Your Dog Day. It may have been just as well that I missed that one, as most dogs aren't that fond of hugging.
The day was created by Purina to introduce, and encourage the use of, a new pet treat they're marketing. Now, I'm all in favor of giving dogs treats, especially if the treats are being used to help teach the dog something. My own dogs get a small treat every time they come in from outdoors, as well as just before bedtime. They also get the odd bits of cheese, a taste of mashed potatoes when we have them, and, occasionally, some Cheerios.
I'm sure that Purina's new dog snack is an appropriate, well-balanced treat. I'm also sure that they should have thought of a different name than "Hug Your Dog Day." Most dogs will tolerate a hug from a family member, but most dogs don't enjoy it. Some dogs will object by pulling away, growling or baring their teeth. A really unhappy dog may snap or bite. Even if your dog lets you hug him, why do something that you know makes your dog unhappy? The point of a hug is lost if the hug-ee doesn't appreciate it.
On top of that, a small child hugging a dog is putting his or her face right near the dog's muzzle. A child's size already puts him at a disadvantage when dealing with a dog, so why encourage a hug? Now, "Give your Dog a Treat Day" would have worked much better. It would encourage the purchase of Purina's new dog treat, and I can't imagine a single dog that wouldn't be delighted to receive the treat.
I almost missed "Pet First Aid Awareness Month" as well, and I was going to write about pet first aid, but there was an article in this paper a couple of weeks ago, so that got covered.
I do have a health "heads up" for both dogs and cats this year, and that's that we're going to see more fleas, ticks and mosquitoes this season. That's the word I got when Rhiannon had her annual vet check, and I also got the message by email. Robyn Caulfield with the nonprofit Companion Animal Parasite Council sent their press release about these annoying pests. Actually, these pests are more than annoying; they can be life threatening, and, because we had such a mild winter, all of them got a head start on reproducing. There was also no hard winter to help kill off part of the pest population, so, with spring here, they are off and running.
Fleas are always a problem, but more people are seeing ticks as well, and deer ticks can carry Lyme disease, a nasty illness that can affect both pets and people. I'm unhappy with the news of more mosquitoes, too, because I'm one of those people who seems to be a particular target of the whiny insects. At least I can't get heartworm. That's the big concern for our dogs and cats. Heartworm larvae get transferred from the mosquito to your pet when the mosquito bites them. From there, the larvae get carried to the heart where they turn into long, ugly worms. Those worms eventually totally clog the heart and, if untreated, cause death.
Yes, there's a treatment, but the treatment has its own dangers. For one thing, the dead worms can cause clots before they completely dissolve, and the medicine itself is hard on the dog's system.
Talk to your veterinarian about protecting your pet this year. Many of the monthly heartworm medications also protect against hookworms, whipworms and roundworms, and some offer flea protection, too, so one pill a month takes care of just about everything. I don't think there are any that fight ticks, but you can get your dog vaccinated for protection against Lyme disease. If you and your dog spend time in tall grass or wooded areas, consider getting this vaccination.
Regular grooming can help you find and eliminate fleas and ticks. If you do find a tick on your pet, and don't feel you can remove it yourself, get to your veterinarian and have it removed immediately. The sooner it is removed, the better the chance that your dog or cat won't contract whatever disease the tick might be carrying.
Be aware of the dangers this summer and protect your pets.