Monsoons are most certainly my favourite time of the year. The pitter patter of raindrops, the greenery that’s visible at every corner, the smell of wet soil—it is like life itself has started afresh. Even the gloomier days are made better with a warm cup of coffee and a book by my side.
As a cat parent, monsoons do not really bother my feline, who is almost always indoor. She’s not exposed to any of the elements and hence I do not have to worry a lot about any of the illnesses that monsoons bring. For dog parents, however, monsoons can be a bit of a challenge.
The disease that rears its ugly head in this weather is called Leptospirosis. Leptospira are bacteria that survive in humid conditions and have a love for stagnant water. Puddle water, therefore, can be a potential cause for the rise of Leptospirosis cases during the monsoons. The preferred reservoir host is rodents. Leptospira spreads via urine of these rodents and through broken skin. So, if your pet has a foot injury and steps into puddle water contaminated with an infected rodent’s urine, there is a high chance that they may contra. What makes this disease so worrisome is that not only does it affect pet animals, it can even spread to humans.
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It can also be rather fatal, with the bacteria affecting the kidney, liver and central nervous system and causing severe organ damage. A pet, who may have potentially contracted leptospirosis, will show signs of reduced urination, loss of appetite, vomiting and also jaundice. The good news is that vaccination is available for leptospirosis. However, some variants of Leptospira still do not have a vaccine and hence one should exercise caution during the monsoons. For one, it is a good idea to steer clear of puddle water.
There is yet another reason to avoid these puddles. Consumption of this water by pets can lead to hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. We see a lot of such cases during the monsoons where dogs come in with vomiting and loose motions, which are sometimes bloody. This tummy upset, albeit treatable, can be quite uncomfortable for the pet. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis can also occur from keeping the food out for too long in the monsoons. All of us know that humidity causes the food to get spoilt sooner. So, if your pup has not finished their meal within 20 mins of serving, it is best to discard it. Always ensure that the food is fresh and kept in a vacuum sealed container.
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Skin infection is also very common during the monsoons. The reason is the humidity. Since we are a tropical country, high humidity, especially during the rains, predisposes to growth of fungi, including on your pet. Pets tend to get wet in the rain and, if not dried properly, develop fungal infections. These look like circular hairless patches that are very itchy or can cause greyish-black discolouration of the skin with a typical mouldy odour.
Smarter pet parents make their dogs wear boots during their walks during this weather to avoid any contact with puddle water. However, very few people know that dogs sweat through their paws and hence these shoes must be taken care of. If not washed and dried out regularly, fungal infection can make its home in between your pooch’s toes.
A lot of insects also surface during the monsoons. We are all too familiar with our own harrowing experiences with mosquito bites in this weather. Stagnant water allows for mosquitoes to breed, and dogs and cats are not exempt from their bites. Their fur often keeps them guarded, but they can still get bitten on the ears and nose. Heartworm disease that spreads via mosquito bites is a big cause of concern in the Western countries. In India, however, heartworm disease is not very common with very few reported cases. The bites can still cause an allergy and irritation to your pets though.
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At the emergency service, where I work, I had a patient come in at 3 am once because they were worried their dog had licked a toad. It was a genuine concern and I admired that the parents were so aware of the hazards of Bufotoxin. Toads tend to secrete a poisonous toxin on their skin and licking or eating such a toad can cause death. Fortunately, this little dog had licked a frog, so she was fine. As a pet parent, out on walks with their dogs, monsoons are a time to be a little more vigilant as various reptiles and amphibians surface. Snake bites also happen more commonly in this season.
A little extra care can keep all these illnesses that monsoons bring, at bay. With all these precautions in place, you can savour the unparalleled scenic beauty this season brings by indulging in treks with your four-legged companion.
Dr Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai, who loves to play the piano in her free time and is ruled by her whimsical cat, Catbury, at home.