GLEN ROSE - Winter can be a lean time for the business of veterinary medicine, but spring, oh spring, brings forth every disease and malady that now saps the sleep from a doctor used to the late sunrises and early sunsets of winter.
Spring brings the sprouts of luscious winter grasses into full, colorful growth. It sounds so picturesque, but when your dog or cat gets into the grass it’s anything but.
Why do dogs and cats eat grass? My best guess is because it tastes good. I don't understand either, but as dogs and cats are simple stomached creatures like we are, they don't digest grass. It comes back up, or goes straight through - pick one or both - and vomiting or diarrhea is the source of a lot of our calls.
Did they eat grass because they knew they were sick and needed to vomit? Or did they vomit because the grass tasted that good and they were just behaving like it was Spring Break in South Padre?
Dogs don't digest grass - horses and cows do. Now we have to run tests to see if it's a virus or another intestinal issue like pancreatitis. Basically, if your adult dog is still vomiting 24 hours later, it's time to come in for an exam.
If it's a puppy that's vomiting, please don't wait. Parvovirus is a puppy’s chief enemy. Vaccination schedules for puppies start at six weeks old and go until 16 weeks.
Besides grass, parasites are wonderful springtime issues, too. You know about fleas and ticks, as they love the warm weather. Vets do have the best treatments and preventatives for external parasites, even better than Wal-Mart or Tractor Supply. It usually takes my clients two or three months of something "not working" before they wander back in for the good stuff.
Seriously, flea and tick control is necessary for your pet’s health to kill the big parasites so the little diseases don't slip in and cause real problems. For example, ticks and fleas carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichia - and the first two affect people, as well.
Fleas and ticks are already in Glen Rose so my best advice is to go to your vet and get something that works, and not let the bugs get on your dogs, cats or in your house.
Here's a small fact to impress your friends: The large blood filled gray ticks are females. The smaller "hard body" ticks are males. They tend to attach on your dog together to be close to each other. I'll let it go at that.
It's the little parasites we can't see that are just as dangerous. Many of the intestinal worms that infect our pets happen when they walk through that pretty green grass. The eggs and larvae are on the grass and then get on your pet's' feet. They eventually make their way to the pet's mouth and are swallowed.
You can see where this is going.
Now they have worms plus the grass to contend with. Stool checks for parasites are part of their annual exam for a reason. The better heartworm and flea control products help treat and prevent these parasites as well.
Here's a last little tidbit on large animal parasites. Springtime is a killer for parasites in goats, cattle, and horses. Remember these creatures eat grass all the time, and the parasites - worm eggs - are on the grass. It won't be long before we have goats dying from parasites, so your husbandry practices must include a worming schedule right now.
Worming cattle is necessary to your bottom line in ranching. A healthier cow produces more milk and grows better calves. Stocker calves on spring pasture will grow faster without parasites and the cost of worming alone will pay itself back every time. For horses, parasites are one of the causes of colic, which can kill the horse. Horses need to be wormed at least every three months.
Enjoy the springtime, but Google "creeping eruption" in people and find out how much fun "hookworms" from dogs is. (Hint: Wear shoes).