Moving to a new state can be a big adjustment for anyone. This also applies to our pets. I moved from up north just a few months ago and it has meant changes for not just me, but my one and a half year old Jack Russell terrier as well. One of the biggest appeals of living in Florida is the warm climate all year round.
I moved to Florida in August and one of the first memories of moving in was getting almost eaten alive by mosquitoes! Mosquitoes thrive in Florida all year round. This means it is imperative that my dog is kept on monthly heartworm prevention year round. Heartworms are spread through mosquitoes and it only takes one tiny mosquito bite to infect a dog with this potentially fatal disease. In some states with very cold winters and the chance of there being a live mosquito is unheard of, many veterinarians give the okay for dogs to be off of monthly prevention during these cold months. This is simply not the case in Florida. Missing just one dose of heartworm prevention can open the door to your dog being infected. If your dog is infected with heartworms, the treatment is extremely serious and expensive. The cost of heartworm treatment far outweighs the cost of monthly heartworm prevention. Since mosquitoes are so prevalent in Florida, it is recommended that dogs are tested twice a year for heartworms, even if no monthly doses of prevention are missed. Another important thing to remember about heartworm prevention is to make sure that your dog is not over the weight limit on the label. If your dog is even just a few pounds heavier than the weight on the box, he/she might not be protected and can be infected with heartworms. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to heartworm prevention!
Fleas are also a major concern in Florida. There are many different species of fleas found in Florida, and in many cases a single pet can be carrying more than one type of flea at a time. Fleas can be a nuisance to not only your pet, but to humans as well. Fleas can cause an allergic reaction to proteins in flea saliva, known as flea allergy dermatitis. In Florida, many pets suffer from flea allergies. Some signs of fleas are scratching or biting hind legs, tail, or abdomen. Fleas are difficult to get rid of, and you must eliminate the source of the flea and implement a strict flea control regimen treating not only your pet but the environment as well. Your pet can also contract tapeworms if he/she ingests a flea carrying a tapeworm. There are both oral and topical medications to help control fleas. Please contact your veterinarian for more information about flea control and what is best for your pet.
Another “Florida fact” to keep in mind is natural wildlife hazards. There are many venomous snakes native to Florida including rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, coral snakes, and in rare occasions copperheads. Alligators, black bears, and coyotes are also found living in Florida. Always use caution when walking your dog at night, this is when coyotes and black bears are active. Raccoons and foxes found in Florida can also be harmful to your pet. They can carry rabies, distemper, and mange. Foxes and coyotes have been known to transmit canine heartworms. Never let your dog run loose, especially at night. Also keep your pet away from wooded areas and borders of lakes, rivers, streams, and swamps. Never let your dog swim in unsafe areas. If you think your dog might be exposed to raccoons, possums, skunks, rats, pigs, cow, or sheep, ask your veterinarian about protecting your dog against Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a potentially fatal disease for dogs and people. It is usually transmitted by contact with infected urine transmitted by the animals listed above. The urine my be mixed with water in puddles, ponds, or streams.
Now that I have lived in Florida for a few months and am aware of these potential dangers found in Florida, I have also have time to explore with my dog. I have found that Florida is a very dog-friendly state. I have taken my dog to countless dog parks, dog beaches, and even shopping areas! I have even found many restaurants allow dogs on their patios. There are countless pet retail stores specializing in everything from treats to designer clothes found here in the sunshine state! I don’t know who enjoyed these trips more, me or my dog! Since I take my little one around town with me, I made sure to have her vaccinated against Bordetella and canine influenza. These are both lifestyle vaccines recommended for dogs who are exposed to groups of dogs. Please contact your veterinarian for more information on these vaccines.
My dog and I are both thrilled to be living in Florida! Even though there are differences in living here versus up north, I am glad that I am aware of them so I can help prevent illness in my beloved dog. I will be sure to take her to her annual and semi-annual exams to make sure she continues to maintain a healthy lifestyle!