A veterinarian's thoughts on the warm fall of 2015

As we anticipate winter and dread the thought of scraping our cars in the morning and donning hats, it seems crazy to be lamenting our beautiful fall weather. However, the warm weather has had an impact on our patients and there are moments in a veterinary office where we hope for winter to finally make a visit.

The first issue that we have seen in the practice this fall is that our dogs with skin allergies are suffering much later in the year than normal. Most of these dogs require medications to control their symptoms through the summer and fall, but are able to wean off of their medications as of Thanksgiving, or at least by the end of October. No such luck this year! There are a long list of dogs still scratching away, thanks to the fact that the trees and grasses are still exposed, releasing the pollens that so irritate them. While some dogs require only medication to control their allergy symptoms, others need constant topical treatments such as baths, ear drops or sprays. We would love for these dogs (and their families) to get a much needed break from their discomfort.

Winter weather also allows us a break from parasite issues such as fleas, ticks and intestinal worms. This is why veterinarians in Ontario typically only recommend parasite control through October or November each year. This year, however, we are still diagnosing dogs with parasitic infections such as giardia (a gastrointestinal parasite that can cause diarrhea) and fleas. We also continue to get calls about ticks on dogs, as the ticks continue to be active when the daytime temperatures are above four degrees Celsius. We anticipate managing some dogs for Lyme disease over the cold winter months, if they have been infected by tick bites late in the season.

The last note about this fall at EVF is to comment on a very significant outbreak of kennel cough (the dog equivalent of a “cold” or “flu”). We generally see an outbreak of cough every fall, lasting a couple of weeks. This year, however, we have seen two different phases of kennel cough, with one outbreak in October, and then a second one just recently (obviously related). This particular strain of illness is quite aggressive, and for the first time in memory, we have had young dogs develop pneumonia secondary to infection. We are hoping that colder weather will stop this cough from continuing to spread. If your dog is coughing at all, please call the clinic, and remember that they are infectious to other dogs until 7-10 days after their cough stops.

So… Here’s to winter! Bring on the frost.