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May 17, 2022

6 min. read

Warmer weather is upon us, which means that our four-legged friends have an increased chance of encountering pests that can make them sick.

Here’s how to protect them against six common ailments this summer.

An annual check-up

Take your pet to the vet for a yearly exam, where you can discuss any concerns you have about their health or lifestyle, says Karen Ward, the Toronto Humane Society’s chief veterinary officer.

“Your vet will do an individual risk assessment to determine what parasite control programs and vaccines are recommended for your pet,” Ward says.


This bacteria lives best in warm, slow-moving water, like after heavy rain or flooding, and can contaminate the soil for months, Ward says. It’s passed through contact with the urine of other animals.

Leptospirosis is transmitted by ingestions and can cause severe kidney and liver damage, says Narissa Weston, a registered veterinary technician with Highway 24 Veterinary Clinic in Guelph, Ont. “In severe infections, leptospirosis may be fatal,” Weston says.

Vaccination is the best preventative care as it’s not realistic to stop your pet from drinking out of puddles, chewing on grass or licking their paws, so make sure their shots are up-to-date.

Symptoms include:

  • increased thirst and urination

  • lethargy

  • loss of appetite

  • fever

  • vomiting

And pets aren’t the only ones at risk. Leptospirosis is zoonotic, meaning you can become infected through contact with your pet's contaminated urine.


Although ticks favour wooded or grassy areas, they can be picked up in urban backyards and parks.

What to look for:

  • flat, oval shaped bugs

  • typically brown, black or tan in colour

  • they attach themselves to your pet’s skin

Run your fingers through your cat or dog’s fur. Ticks feel like small, round bumps on the surface of the skin. Also check around the armpits, mouth, lips, ears, tail and feet.

As tick territories expand throughout Canada, owners should ask their veterinarians about oral or topical medications that control the spread of tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Weston says.

It's essential to remove ticks from the skin as soon as possible, but don't attempt to remove the tick before consulting with your vet to discuss the best course of action. They may guide you through the removal process if you feel comfortable.


Dogs that venture off-leash on hiking trails and outdoor cats are at risk of catching parasites by coming into contact with other animals’ waste.

These can cause:

  • diarrhea

  • vomiting

  • weight loss

  • loss of appetite

  • anemia

  • fever

  • lethargy

Reduce exposure by cleaning up any feces from your yard.

Pets should be routinely dewormed, too.


Spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with their feces, this disease has a mortality rate of up to 90 percent if left untreated1.

The highly contagious virus enters the body through the mouth, causing dehydration and deterioration of the gastrointestinal tract.

Luckily, parvovirus can be avoided with proper vaccination or managed with medication and treatment if caught early enough.

Symptoms include:

  • loss of appetite

  • vomiting

  • diarrhea

Treatment may consist of hospitalization for intravenous (IV) fluids, pain medication, anti-nausea medication, gastric-protectants and antibiotics.


Get your pet screened for the mosquito-spread heartworm disease with a blood test each year. Make sure to ask your vet which months you’ll need to give them heartworm prevention medication.

Don't forget to let your vet know if you'll be travelling south with your pet as they may need an extra dose.

If left untreated, heartworm disease can progress and damage your pet’s heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.

Heat stroke and exhaustion

Know the signs if your pet has spent too much time in hot temperatures.

These are:

  • excessive panting

  • drooling

  • red gums

  • vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • slowed mental state

  • incoordination

  • collapsing

Seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect they are suffering from heat stroke or exhaustion.

“Some dog breeds are particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion and can experience respiratory distress with moderate temperatures and little exercise,” Weston says.

Preventive measures

Illness prevention is essential for pets who love the outdoors, but ensure your indoor animals are protected, too.

“There is no guarantee they will recover from things like parvovirus or leptospirosis. That can have an emotional toll on your family,” Weston says, “but it can be prevented with a couple of vaccinations yearly.”

Don’t let the fear of illness deter you from spending time outside with your pet. Being able to engage in a full range of outdoor activities is critical to their happiness, mental and physical well-being, Ward says.


1Horecka K, Porter S, Amirian ES, Jefferson E. A Decade of Treatment of Canine Parvovirus in an Animal Shelter: A Retrospective Study. Animals (Basel). 2020;10(6):939.

Help protect your pet

Ensure your four-legged family member is taken care of—and provide peace of mind for yourself—with pet insurance from CAA’s partner Pets Plus Us, to help cover unexpected expenses at the vet. Speak with a licensed Pets Plus Us Insurance Agent to discuss the right plan for your family by calling 1-833-323-2452. You’ll save seven percent on pet insurance policies and 13.5 percent if you’re a CAA Member.

Image credit: Julian Hochgesang/Unsplash

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