Keeping pets safe and healthy after Hurricane Dorian

Pets face many medical after-effects from hurricanes

By Erin Dobzryn - Producer
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hurricane Dorian has finally come and gone in Central Florida, but there are still health risks associated with the storm to be mindful of.

Pets, in particular, can feel the lasting after-effects of hurricanes, and owners must still be vigilant of hazards and symptoms of potential illnesses post-storm.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has found that the risk for heartworm in pets rises after a hurricane hits. 

Heartworm disease is a health risk year-round, but an increase in standing water and moist soil can encourage populations of infected mosquitoes that can spread the disease. 

Heartworm is a mosquito-borne disease and is transmitted through the bite of the insect. According to AAHA, the deadly disease targets heart and lung tissue.

Heartworm is preventable with a monthly prescription that can be purchased at a veterinarian's office. 

Dr. Heather B. Loenser, Senior Veterinary Officer for the American Animal Hospital Association, says other infectious diseases are easily spread after hurricanes, and some can even be transmitted from pets to owners.

A parasite called giardia becomes even more common after storms and can be found in areas that have been in contact with infected feces. 

"Giardiasis can occur in contaminated water," Dr. Loenser says. "Pet owners should seek veterinary care of their dog or cat develops diarrhea for more than 2 days."

An in-clinic test can determine if a pet has contracted giardia. 

Leptospirosis, or Lepto for short, is a zoonotic bacterial disease, which means that humans can contract the sickness from their pets if infected. It is spread through the urine of infected animals, such as rodents and other wild mammals. 

"Lepto is more common in dogs and clinical signs include vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, fever and in severe cases, the white of their eyes or gums develop a yellow hue (jaundice) from liver failure,"  Dr. Loenser says. "There is a vaccine for lepto, but if the dog has never been vaccinated or is overdue, it will require two vaccines given two to four weeks apart, which, unfortunately, you don't have time for [when a hurricane hits]."

According to the American Veterinarian Journal, disorientation and heat stroke are two common hazards pets can experience after a hurricane, but both are preventable.

Pets should always be kept on a leash when going on walks as they experience anxiety and panic in the weeks following a weather-related disaster.

Power outages can be dangerous for pets, as they can't sweat the same way people do. Access to shade and fresh water are always important, but are crucial if air conditioning is not available.  

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