5 Surprising Pet Health Hazards of Drought

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A dog sits.By Dr. Fiona Caldwell, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best Pet Insurance, a pet health insurance agency.

Examination of old growth tree rings in California suggest this is the driest the state has been in 500 years. California’s governor has asked for a state of emergency as the drought continues on. Drought conditions have far reaching implications. Certainly its impact on the economy has been well documented, but less water has implications for human health, and the health of animals as well! Here are five surprising health consequences droughts have for pets.

1. Apparently the dry, warm weather makes stray cats more interested in mating. Experts aren’t sure why there is a correlation between reproductive activity and dry weather, but area shelters and humane societies have seen a dramatic increase in feral kittens being dropped off in need of homes.

2. As running water dries up there are more and more pools of stagnant water. These pools are common places for animals to congregate and comingle, which can lead to the spread of infectious disease, especially in wild populations. Stagnant water is a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes and California officials are geared for a large increase in the incidence of West Nile Virus (dogs and cats are immune to this disease though). Interestingly, studies actually show the opposite for another mosquito borne disease, Heartworms. The incidence of heartworm disease actually goes down.[1]

3. All that stagnant water can increase the concentration of chemical run off from industries and farming. These can be toxic to domestic animals if they try to drink from a contaminated water source. As water temperatures rise, algae blooms can increase as well. There are some types of neurotoxic algae blooms that can make dogs ill when consumed.

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4. Bugs need water too! Counties have seen an increase in the need for exterminators as bugs are moving into human-inhabited areas, increasing the need for parasite control in domestic animals to keep them healthy.

5. Black bear sightings are up since this normally shy creature is being forced into populated areas to find food and water. Most wildlife creatures don’t mix well with curious dogs, or cats for that matter!

As people team up to find ways to cope during the California drought, it is important that the health of our four legged family members isn’t overlooked.

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