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By Dr. Jen Jones
Fall is here in Philly! Whether you’re biking through autumn leaves in Fairmount Park, or enjoying a night out on the town, or enjoying a few glorious cool days before winter sets in, we can all agree it’s a great time of the year to be spending time outside in our city… and our pets think so too! You may think the arrival of cool weather signals the end of flea and tick season, but in fact ticks remain active if the daytime high hits 40 degrees. As a veterinarian, my first recommendation is to make sure you don’t stop your pet’s flea and tick preventative. This will help protect dogs against Lyme disease and other tick illnesses that are still very prevalent this time of year. Cats are at risk too, as the cool and damp fall weather often brings a surge in flea populations. Stopping prevention early can leave Fluffy vulnerable to a fall flea infestation. Preventing fleas will protect cats from many bacterial illnesses and from tapeworms as well, so don’t stop now!
To further protect your pets this autumn, we turn towards vaccines. These are vaccines that we like to call “lifestyle-dependent” and are specifically targeted for pets who may be spending time outside.
Some of the vaccines I would recommend for active dogs would be Lyme (which is incredibly common in our area) and leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is spread most commonly through the urine of rats, raccoons, and opossums. It can contaminate puddles or soil, which your pet may come into contact with. While it is not quite as prevalent as Lyme, it can be fatal and it can also be spread to you or your family, so we generally encourage the “better safe than sorry” approach.
We like to make sure our cats get the protection they deserve too if they’re going to be making trips to the backyard to enjoy the cool days. Feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus (FeLV and FIV) are two diseases that can be easily spread from cat to cat by a single bite. FeLV can also be spread by grooming or even simply sharing a food or water bowl. FeLV and FIV are both fatal, non-curable conditions. Fortunately there is a vaccine available for FeLV, but not for FIV. It’s still the best recommendation that your cat never go outside without direct supervision.
I hope all of my Philadelphians out there (human and animal alike) have a glorious autumn season!
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Jen Jones, VMD is owner of the Animedic veterinary clinic in Manayunk and a longtime resident of Philadelphia. She lives in the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia with 3 rescued cats, a sweet rescued pit bull and her human family. Animedic advocates pet adoption and supports many local rescue organizations.