City Paws : Climate Change and Your Critters

By Penny & Ed Cherubino

Over three decades of living with and caring for dogs, we have had to change some of our thinking due to climate change. Some of the decisions we made and approaches we took with our first dog Sassy would not be safe today.

Medications and Vaccinations

For example, we only gave Sassy heartworm medication from April 1st to October 1st. After interviewing an expert on the subject a few years ago, we now give dog #3, Poppy, a heartworm preventative year-round. We can no longer count on winters cold enough to kill off a mosquito population that lives on through cold months in places like urban sewers.

Climate change journalist Elizabeth Weise writing for USA TODAY reported, “Veterinarians and biologists who study diseases spread by insects observed that it’s not just where but when the diseases strike that’s changing. The times of year when dogs are at risk are changing in some areas where summers are becoming too hot to support the insects or the diseases they carry.”

She quoted Andrew Dobson, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University in New Jersey who said, “Diseases like Lyme disease that used to be transmitted in the peak summer months could now be peaking in the spring and fall because it’s too hot in the summer. So you get a longer transmission window.”

All this suggests a serious discussion with your veterinarian about any additional medications, schedules, preventative measures, or vaccinations your animals may need. You should also ask about the symptoms of diseases that are increasing in the areas where you and your pets live or visit.

Algae Blooms and Invasive Species

Algae blooms can occur on both fresh and salt water and some can be deadly. Mother Nature Network has warned animal guardians, “Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, turn lakes a distinctive hue when conditions are right for the growth of algal blooms. In addition to producing a thick mat of green scum and an offensive smell, sometimes blue-green algae also produce microcystins, toxins that can be deadly to dogs, livestock and other animals within hours of contact.”

Invasive species like zebra mussels can multiply and die off leaving large quantities of broken shells that can cut paws. These little pests can also regenerate phosphate nutrients close to shore, spurring toxic algae growth.

On the Other Hand…

There are some dog care practices that we began with Sassy and are very glad we have as part of our routines in today’s world.

Back then, because we worked long hours, we trained Sassy to use a litter box that allowed her to relieve herself as needed. With today’s more severe storms, we’re glad that Poppy can stay indoors and use her puppy pads when we have a blizzard, driving rain, a violent thunderstorm, unhealthy air, or dangerous heat.

Thanks to dog savvy friends, we have always had a dog emergency kit. It is part first aid kit with basic dog specific supplies such as a bandage that clings to itself, vet approved cleaning solutions, and backup medications. It is also part disaster preparedness kit if we were ever required to evacuate with Poppy. You can find lists of items you should consider having in your pet’s kit online by searching “Pet Disaster Preparedness Kit.” All the major humane groups have lists of what you would need in these situations. 

Do you have a question or topic for City Paws. Send an email to [email protected] with your request.

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