We love to see them at forest preserves and wildlife centers. Now more and more people are seeing them in their back yards and even living in their homes. Wild life populations are adapting to live in human environments. Populations are growing and moving into suburban communities like Elmhurst, Downers Grove, Lombard, and other towns surrounding the Chicagoland area. Coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, bats, and of course skunks carry diseases and parasites that can infect your pet or you. At DeVries Animal Hospital we feel it’s important to educate the public on ways to protect ourselves and our furry friends from infection.
Parasites such as fleas can jump from one host to another and live on a variety of wildlife species, and pose more of a problem for your dog or cat than yourself. Fleas transmit an intestinal parasite called tapeworms. Tapeworm larvae look like small pieces of rice. Symptoms of the parasite usually consist of loose stool with tapeworm larvae in the stool. While tapeworms are relatively common with animals, human infection is rarely reported. Ticks will feed on their host man or beast by burying their head into the flesh than gorging themselves on the blood. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that spreads through the connective tissues of the body causing severe joint pain and can affect the central nervous system. Lyme disease can be fatal if left untreated. Prevention from fleas and tick involves applying products such as Frontline on a monthly basis to your cat or dog. A Lyme disease vaccine is also offered for dogs that are at risk for infection. At risk dogs would include those that go hunting, hiking, camping, or ones that spend a large amount of time outside were there is a heavy population of ticks.
Heartworms are exactly what the name suggests, worms that live in the heart and lungs. These nasty things are transmitted by mosquitoes and mostly infect canine species like coyotes, foxes and the family dog. Recent studies indicate that 100% of coyotes are positive for heartworm disease and pose a threat to all dogs. Year round prevention is recommended to protect against this potentially fatal disease. DeVries Animal Hospital offers blood test thats checks for the presence of heart worm and can prescribe heartworm preventatives such as Heartgard.
Leptospirosis is another bacterial infection that is transmitted through the urine of wildlife and is zoonotic (an infectious disease that can be transmitted between species from animal to man). Leptospirosis affects the liver and kidney and if left untreated can be deadly. Leptospirosis vaccines are offered for your canine companion and are recommended for dogs that are at high risk for infection. Dogs that go hunting, swimming, or ones that drink from stagnant water are at risk for infection.
Intestinal parasites such as Coccidia, Hookworms, Roundworms, and Giardia can also be transmitted to your pet through the feces of the infected animal. Let’s say Fido ran through some raccoon poop that was infected with roundworms. Then Fido decides to clean himself with his tongue, he just ingested roundworms. This scenario and many others like it are how most of these parasites are transmitted which is why DeVries Animal Hospital recommends bringing in your pet's stool sample during their yearly wellness exams in order to check for these parasites and provides treatments for positive results.
Rabies is the more well known disease. It is spread when an infected animal bites a victim. The rabies virus then spreads from the saliva of the infected animal into the bloodstream of the victim where it will end up in the brain causing the central nervous system to shut down resulting in death. Vaccinating your pets against rabies is required by law in DuPage County. DeVries Animal Hospital offers both 1 year and 3 year rabies vaccines and county tags can be purchased at the front desk.
Increased sightings of coyotes within Elmhurst has been a concern recently. Pet owners are encouraged to keep pets on a leash at all times, and avoid leaving pets (especially small dogs) unattended in fenced in yards. Coyotes are predators and prey on small or invalid animals, putting small dogs at risk. The City of Elmhurst has recently encouraged pet owners to report coyote sightings and condition of the coyote to gain a better understanding of how they live and interact in a suburban environment. Follow this link to report a coyote sighting: http://scientificwildlifemanagement.com/report-a-sighting