Love is in the Air and so are Germs

protecting against the bugs you can't see

So now you know all about the little creepy crawlies that can bother your baby, but what about the ones you can't really see? These can cause even more damage than the pests that are obvious to the eye. Just as in humans, viruses and germs like streptococci and hepatitis can cause severe pain, discomfort, and sometimes even death in your dog. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to help prevent the invasion of these nasty bugs. The first step, as always, is education.

What are some of the germs and viruses that can cause damage to my dog's health? Do you have a few days? The list is gigantic, but many of those are fairly rare. We'll go through some of the most common germs that can do her the most harm.

• Blastomyces: If you live in an area filled with birds, you may want to be careful about where your pooch plays. Try to keep her out of shady areas beneath bird-packed trees, as the combination of the droppings and the lack of germ-killing sunlight makes those spots a hotbed for germ activity. This fungus can cause blastomycosis, which, in addition to twisting your tongue in knots while saying its name, will give your pup a bad case of bronchitis, pneumonia, or skin sores.

• Streptococci: You may have run into this one yourself. While some streptococci bacteria are a standard aspect of your dog's skin, others can weasel their way into the body and cause infection. If you notice sores on your pup's skin that are raised and whitish or look as though they may contain pus, she may have a strep infection.

• Rhabdovirus: Think you've never heard of this one? Think again. Look at the first syllable -sound familiar? These guys are the virus that causes rabies.

• Leptospira: The perfect reason to keep your pooch from drinking from outdoor puddles. This bacteria contaminates water, especially water located near areas where livestock or rodents are

Wooded Tree Area
A tree full of birds can do more than just dive-bomb your dog - the area beneath the tree can contain a high amount of blastomyces, germs that can cause severe skin and respiratory problems.

located. It's responsible for some horrendous kidney problems, so keep your pup away from any water you can't be certain is safe.

How can I keep my dog from ingesting or contracting any of these bugs? Put simply, vaccination. While vaccination has come under fire in recent years for effectiveness, it is still the most widely veterinarian-accepted way of preventing disease and infection. Some people get a little worried about the fact that vaccines typically entail injecting your dog (or you, or your child) with some form of the very virus you're hoping to prevent. Vaccines, however, come in three forms, none of which feature fully active, pure, living versions of the virus. Others feel that vaccines "teach" a dog's immune system to rely on shots or outside influence to prevent disease, which means the immune system itself may end up being weaker. If you have concerns about vaccination, do a little research into alternative methods and ask your veterinarian for 10 minutes in which you can openly discuss the positives and negatives of each. You need to feel confident and comfortable about your dog's health care - she'll know if you're not, and the nerves and apprehension will trigger her own anxiety. This definitely weakens the immune system.

If you choose to go with traditional vaccination, your vet will plot a timeline for your dog's shots. The highest time of vaccination is during the first year. After that you should need only 6-month or annual renewals. If you decide to take your pooch on vacation or move to another region or country, contact your vet for any special instructions or vaccines specific to that area. Beyond preventative medication, practice caution in other areas of your dog's life and activities. As mentioned previously, your pup should never be allowed to drink from standing water, puddles, or, if you can avoid it, even rivers and lakes. When taking her for nature hikes, bring along a travel bowl and bottle of water to make sure she has a fresh source. If you ever notice her digging or chewing in an unfamiliar area outdoors, investigate immediately. Never let her kill and eat rodents, other small

Helpful hint: Many vets now offer extended release versions of more common vaccines. Also ask about 6-month heartworm preventative injections that are now available.


This debate is as hot and heavy as any in international politics. Many homeopathic healers feature treatments of major veterinary diseases, and some have begun to offer a homeopathic alternative to vaccination. Called nosodes, the homeopathic medicines are created with strains of actual disease organisms by extracting the organisms from the bodily excretions of a dog affected with the corresponding disease. The dog to be protected is then given the medicine.

Whether or not you decide to opt for the use of nosodes with your pup depends upon your opinion and your vet's input. As would be expected, the results from academic studies usually claim that nosodes don't offer protection while homeopathic healers claim otherwise.

animals, or their carcasses. You should even practice caution with unfamiliar dogs who may be infected. Dogs' natural instinct to sniff and lick various areas of each other's bodies is a great way for bacteria and viruses to jump from dog to dog.

You certainly can't (and shouldn't) keep your dog locked up in the house seven days a week - she's a dog, for goodness' sake! She'll run into some nasty bacteria now and then, but most of the time her immune system will launch and attack immediately. Rather than being overprotective of her, just be she may be getting into.

Okay, so say she gets a virus. What happens then?

If not killed by the immune system, viruses can develop into viral diseases or infections. These can be as simple as bronchitis or as complex and damaging as rabies or heart disease. Once a virus has gotten past the immune system, it begins killing cells in the body. This results in disease and the symptoms of the disease. What can occur after infection depends a great deal on which virus has invaded the body, but below are a few common viral and bacterial diseases.

• Parvovirus: Many people currently feel that the canine version of this virus is actually a mutation of the parvovirus that's common in cats. It's a very hardy virus and can survive for up to six months without a host - it also withstands common disinfectants. Because it is spread through infected fecal matter, pups who have a nasty habit of eating other dogs' feces are at high risk. But because the virus is only needed in small quantities to cause disease or severe infection, your dog can contract it just by licking her feet or fur after coming into contact with fecal matter. Its spread through the bloodstream ultimately leads it to the bone marrow, intestinal lining, and other areas where cells replicate quickly. Symptoms include stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy, but lack of proper treatment can cause shock and death.

• Distemper: The troubling side to this condition is that, even after successful treatment through antibiotics, dogs often develop encephalitis. The brain inflammation can trigger seizures, convulsions, poor behavior, and even blindness. Survivors often develop a jerky motion in their

Quick tip: If you are diagnosed with strep throat, pneumonia, bronchitis, or a more serious infectious disease, you may want to get your pup to the vet. Dogs can both carry and contract human diseases and often need to be treated to get the virus out of the household completely.

aware of your surroundings and what


ever vaccinate a dog who:

• Is ill or injured.

i\ i o

yiake sure your vet knows that your pooch fits nto one of the above categories if that period >f time overlaps a checkup.

muscles that lasts for life. Early symptoms

Helpful hint: Kennel cough can be of the disease include fever, fatigue, distinguished from normal coughing through its dry, shallow honk. It was named because the disease is transmitted best in close quarters with poor ventilation, but many kennels today take great steps to preventing such conditions.

vomiting, and discharge from the eyes and nose.

Kennel Cough: The symptoms for this virus should be fairly obvious. The respiratory infection is due to the fact that bacteria destroy the small hairs that line the upper respiratory tract and filter out nasty germs and other bacteria. Once those hairs are gone, the germs have the chance to take up residence further down in the respiratory tract or even in the lungs themselves. If the dogs don't recover within a few days, other bacteria and fungi move in and can cause even deeper complications. While not every cough is necessarily a symptom of kennel cough, those accompanied with a deep hacking sound run a good chance of being responsible. Rabies: Anyone who has seen, read, or even heard of Stephen King's Cujo or Old Yeller knows about this killer virus and its trademark mouth foam. There is no effective treatment for the virus, which means that it is always fatal. Vaccinations are especially important for rabies, and many governments mandate regular vaccination periods. Transmitted by saliva, the most common means of infection is through bites, typically from wild animals such as raccoons and possums. The virus attacks the nervous system and has the potential to turn the most docile family pet into a raging, irrational predator. The final stage of the virus is its attack on the brain and subsequent infection. Because a lesser-known version of the virus causes paralysis and lethargy without the accompanying rage, it's important to be aware of any changes in your pup's personality and get her to the vet for diagnosis before she transmits to other

Rabies Humans

Get medical attention immediately if you or your dog has been bitten by a rabid animal. Many people are frightened by the treatment of rabies in humans or that their dog's head will be cut off, but these are both older ways of dealing with the disease. While humans once had to undergo injections directly into their stomach using gigantic needles, current treatments involve standard-sized needles given at the site of the wound. Similarly, dogs are often only treated and quarantined if reported quickly enough... a far cry from the older canine treatments.

animais. If your dog is up to date on her rabies vaccines but is bitten by an animal you feel may carry the virus, wash the wound with soap and water (wear gloves!) and take her to the vet for a booster. Watch her closely for the next month or two and let your veterinarian know of any personality changes or drops in energy.

• Tetanus: This infection is common in nearly all warm-blooded animals and is most commonly contracted through the presence of soil in a deep wound. If the infection goes unnoticed and untreated, it can cause spasms, lockjaw, and even death. The easiest way to prevent the infection is to routinely inspect your pup for cuts, scrapes, and wounds. This is especially important after an outdoor playtime or hike when you may have been unable to monitor exactly what she was doing at all times. If you notice any particularly deep cuts, have your vet check her out.

• Lyme Disease: Again, this condition is common in both humans and dogs, and symptoms mirror one another between species. Carried by ticks, it is most common in heavily wooded areas in which ticks have access to a number of different animal hosts. Lyme disease doesn't originate with the tick itself. The initial host is usually a rodent or other small animal that frequents areas with high amounts of bacteria (garbage dumps and sewers are great breeding grounds). After the tick bites the rodent, it moves on to a bigger host and transmits the Lyme bacteria from the mouse through its saliva. Main symptoms of Lyme disease are lameness, lethargy, weight loss, and fever. To prevent the disease, be certain your pooch is on a regular tick preventative, but also make sure you run your hands through her coat and inspect her thoroughly after outdoor walks. If you've been in a more heavily forested area, continue checking her on a daily basis for up to a week after the outdoor playtime. And, as a measure of self-preservation, check your own body at the same time.

Quick tip: Dogs that play in areas frequented by cows and horses are at the highest risk for tetanus. If your dog loves to hang out in the stable or corral, be sure to check her for cuts and scratches before and after playtime and get her tetanus shot updated regularly.

Treatment for most viruses and infections is focused around antibiotics. Whether administered via liquid, pill, or shot, all have been tested extensively as the antibodies to particular viruses. Some treatments will require extra care from you in the form of increased water intake, ice on a wound, or trying to keep your pup from licking an infected area. Many viruses and infections are now treatable and non-fatal, it's just a matter of knowing your dog and being aware of the things she encounters on a day-to-day basis.

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