Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me: Screwworm Infestation in Miami

screwworm Miami

Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me: Screwworm Infestation in Miami

Written by Sam Arner

Maggots…the word alone is enough to make your skin crawl. We often associate the word with dirt and filth, but maggots are simply the larval stage of a fly. And just like all living things, a maggot’s got to eat. Typically, maggots feed on decaying animals to help fuel growth. Although disgusting, they are a vital clean-up crew for the environment. Notice how I used the word “typically”? That is because there is recent evidence that a live tissue-eating maggot, known as the Screwworm (Cochliomyia hominivorax), has reappeared in Homestead, FL after being nearly eradicated in the 1950’s.

The Problem: Screwworms in the Florida Keys

Screwworm first re-appeared in North America on October 3rd 2016 in the Florida Keys. The infestation has mostly been found in the native Key deer population, but there were a few cases found in domestic animals. Biologists thought the problem had been contained, but as you can imagine it is hard to contain a fly.  In January of this year, a stray dog in Homestead was found with a screwworm infestation in its wounds. Since being detected, the dog has been contained and freed of the maggots, but at this point it is unknown how prevalent Screwworms are here on the mainland.

The Concern: Screwworm Infestation

The actual flies do not cause physical harm to any being, but a female fly will lay her eggs in any open wound she can find. What is unique about Screwworms are that they thrive on live tissue of “warm-blooded” animals. They show no mercy and can infest pets, wildlife, and even humans. One little scrape or cut can provide an excellent feeding ground for these critters. In America, infestation of humans is of little concern. We (hopefully) shower often enough and tend to our wounds quickly enough that the insects don’t have enough time to take up residency in our flesh. Animals, however, are a different story.

Screwworm presence in wildlife and feral animals can be difficult to detect, and the reason why this outbreak is so concerning. Not only do they pose a serious potential risk for wildlife populations, but these wild animals can provide the perfect breeding ground for this opportunistic insect. One undetected wound on our pets could put them at risk for an infestation.

Preventing Screwworm Infection

Being aware and knowing your pet is the key to preventing them from unnecessary harm. Do not let your pet roam around outside unmonitored. If one undetected wound on our pets comes in contact with a wild animal with these flesh-eating larvae or the fly itself, it could lead to a painful demise. Most importantly, know your pet inside and out! Along with regular bathing, look over your pets’ fur and skin frequently. If you detect a wound, clean it and closely monitor it. The larvae can go undetected in the beginning stages, so if you notice your pet’s wound hasn’t gotten better in a few days or worsens, do not hesitate, and take them to a vet. Early detection is key to saving our pets and helping biologists eradicate this species once and for all.

If you detect Screwworms on you, your pets, or local wildlife contact 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352). If you are a non-Florida resident call 850-410-3800. Anyone visiting the Florida area should check any pets before leaving to prevent further infestation.

Resources on Screwworms:

  1. http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/livestock/primary_screwworm.htm 
  2. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/nvap/vet_acred_alert
  3. https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/animal_health/pdfs/Screwworm_Fact_Sheet.pdf

Photo Credits:

  1. Cochliomyia hominivorax: John Kucharski – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons. Original uploader was Ellmist from http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/k7576-1.htm Image Number K7576-1
  2. Screwworm: The Mexican-American Commission for the Eradication of the Screwworm

5 Easy New Year’s Resolutions for Dogs & Cats

5 Easy New Year’s Resolutions for Dogs and Cats

The New Year is here and it’s time to not only improve ourselves, but also the lives of our furry family members. We have five easy, simple ways you can improve your pets’ quality of life. Enjoy these simple New Year’s Resolutions for your pets!

1. Work out more!

It’s the New Year, so we have to start with the most classic of New Year’s resolutions: get fit and healthy! Unfortunately, much like their parents, dogs and cats are becoming fatter. In 2015, an estimated 53.8% of US dogs were overweight or obese. An estimated 58.2% of US cats were overweight or obese, and it’s on the rise according to Prevent Obesity Prevention. 

While we think our pudgy pets look cute with a few rolls, being overweight adversely affects their joints, makes your susceptible to certain kinds of cancer, can hurt the spinal cord, causes cardiovascular issues, insulin resistance, and generally diminishes your pets’ quality of life, not to mention affecting your finances.

It’s time to start a walking or running routine for your dog, and help your cat find more ways to scamper around your house! We’re happy to help get your dog into shape with daily or weekly walks and playtime. We’ve written a blog with 15 fun activities for healthy dogs. Worried about your dogs exercising in our hot climate? Read more about how we beat the heat and keep dogs healthy in our post.

Don’t leave your kitty out of the fun! Cats are blessed with great metabolisms, but they should exercise at least 10 minutes a few times a day. Kittens and young cats are easy to engage and play with; you’ll have to get creative with older, overweight, and more sedentary kitties, keeping scratching posts and cat trees to make them use their muscles to climb. Laser light pointers can be fun, but avoid shining them directly into your kitty’s eyes.

Miami dog food

2. Eat great, fresh pet food!

Fresh New Year’s resolutions mean a commitment to fresh, nutritious food! There is a new movement in town, and it’s made up of amazing people making food for cats and dogs from scratch right in Miami, with local ingredients and lots of love. Our friends at Pet Wants Miami, Dishes for Dogs, and Animal Crackers are all ready to help change your pets’ lives with the best kibble and from-scratch, fresh, whole food resulting in a shiny coat, healthier teeth and skin, and smaller stool (hey, if that means less poop to scoop, we’re sold!).

  • Dishes for Dogs is a client favorite, with delicious fresh, from-scratch food for both cat and dogs as well. Each recipe is formulated to meet or exceed National Research Council (NRC) and AAFCO standards, and all Dishes For Dogs ingredients are certified by the USDA for human consumption. Each meal is 100% free of preservatives, additives, artificial flavors, fillers or animal by-product. 
  • Pet Wants Miami makes fresh, slow-cooked kibble for cats and dogs in frequent batches, superior to mass-produced over-cooked kibble that can languish in warehouses for months before getting to your pet, losing nutrition. 
  • Animal Crackers carries Farm Fresh Pet foods, which uses only healthy, fresh, Grade A meats, and all our recipes include a minimum of 80% fresh meat as the basis of the diet. The delicately cooked meats are supported by wholesome fresh veggies which supply fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients.

dog trainers Miami

3. Self Improvement: Work on your manners and intellect!

Is your five second rule moot because of a two-second dog? Teach him some new tricks to help train his brain and keep him safe,! Your dogs and kitties are curious and want to interact and play with you. It’s a great way to keep their minds occupied and also keep them healthy, avoiding their picking up any toxic substance that falls to the floor, or stopping them from running into oncoming traffic. If you’re behind on training, we highly recommend Applause Your Paws to help make your dog the best canine citizen he or she can be through positive reinforcement training in their amazing facility. They also come to your home and best of all, they train you to be a better dog parent.

Did you know cats are trainable? You can even get them to perform in cat agility tournaments. It takes time and patience, but you can help coax a cat into being even more special than she is. It’s vital to remember that cats only respond well to positive reinforcement training, never reinforce with a negative action. Learn more about how to teach a cat tricks and help them unlock an original New Year’s resolution!

dog groomer Miami

4. Change your look!

We all feel better when we get a fresh haircut. There are several excellent groomers in Miami, but our good friends Carla’s Doggy Grooming, Best in Show Pet Spa, MyDog, and the Dog from Ipanema take the treat! Carla’s Doggy Grooming and Best in Show Pet Spa are professional mobile groomers who come to your pup on set schedules. If you are more a brick and mortar type, head over to MyDog and the Dog from Ipanema to get your pups’ nails trimmed and their fur beautified and smelling delicious.

pet sitters Miami

5. Quality Time: Stop and smell the roses

A life well-lived means different things to different people and species. So, when you’re out on a walk with your dog, make sure to give him quality time he needs. Let him sniff once in a while. Let him follow a scent into a bush (with your full supervision, of course!) When you get home, bond with your pup by spending a few minutes working on a new command, or brushing her fur and teeth. Give your cat a new box, play with that new string you bought him, set up a cat channel on YouTube and cuddle together. Remember, it’s the little things and the small moments of joy that make a happy life worth living.

Have a beautiful 2017!

 

6 Reasons to Start Walking Your Dog Yesterday!

6 reasons to walk your dog

6 Reasons to Start Walking Your Dog Yesterday

We all want to be great dog parents. We intend to train our dogs, practice learning new tricks every day,  take them out for a walk- no! two walks! a day… but when we get home tired from work, it’s much easier to let them out in the yard to do their business alone then let them back in for Netflix and pets. But dogs don’t create their own exercise routines on their own- they need direction, stimulation- or else they will do it in ways you prefer they not.

As dog walkers we can unequivocally tell you that truly, a tired dog is a much better behaved dog. Just like with children, dogs have active minds and a desire to explore the world with you by their side. They crave time with their parents, and also need to stretch their legs and get in some exercise to maintain their health. It’s a no-brainer that we should all be walking our dogs, but here are a six reasons to inspire action today.
walker walking running Pinecrest dogs
1. Keep your dogs at a healthy weight.
Dog obesity is on the rise. This causes many of the same problems for them as obese humans experience, including joint and muscle pain, chronic inflammation, depression, strain on the heart and other organs, crowding of the lungs, and more.

Exercising with your dog every day, coupled with a great diet appropriate for your dog’s needs, will result in maintaining a good weight for your pet and avoid any weight-related health issues with joints and bones.

How to tell if a dog is at a good weight when you don’t have a scale at home? Here are some quick visual guidelines:

  • Your dog’s ribs should not be showing. Feel the sides; you should feel their ribs after some slight padding, like having a blanket over the ribs.
  • Look at your pet from above: hip bones should not be protruding, but they shouldn’t look like a sausage or a ball with legs. There should be a nice narrowing at the abdomen.
  • Look at your pet from the side: You should see a dip in the abdomen when looking at them from the side. The stomach should not hang below the chest, or be too tight against the back.


2. Prevent premature aging
Exercise like walking your dog prevents premature aging by engaging and maintaining lean muscle condition. Lean muscle mass is important because it strengthens bones and “dramatically increases the availability of protein and constituent amino acids, which availability is tremendously important to maintaining whole-body metabolism and “organ reserve” (the functional capacity of organs to support life).

Whole-body metabolism and organ reserve are absolutely vital to basic bodily life-support but they tend to break down as bodies age,” according to Coach Dan Schulof at Varsity Pets. Take this to heart for yourself, too- get moving at least 20 minutes a day to prevent a slew of issues in your own body. Ah, dogs are a gift that keep on giving!

3. Maintain essential bodily functions:
Daily exercise is also considered one of the first treatments for dog constipation, in addition to adequate water and fiber in the diet. Did you know that lack of muscle use allows muscle to generate? Yeah, we learned about that in school at some point. Exercise such as walking your dog improves insulin health and metabolism, as well.

According to Animal Wellness Magazine, “Physical activity helps jumpstart natural gene systems involved in regenerating and maintaining insulin health, helping to reverse insulin resistance and diabetes. It’s another one of those natural adaptation mechanisms where the body adapts to physical work by improving nutrient absorption by the cells. It consequently improves sugar transport for the energy required by working cells, and helps restore insulin health and correct the diabetic condition. Improvement of insulin resistance literally enhances biological age and general health as well as energy, stamina and strength.”

4. Helps your dog be better behaved.
Are your dogs tearing up furniture, your favorite shoes, or being generally destructive when you’re not around? If you work or travel a lot or simply have a very busy schedule, your animals might be channeling their pent-up energy as best they can. Active dogs who don’t have an outlet for their energy can become destructive and exhibit neurotic behaviors such as chewing, digging, or barking, but you can prevent that!

Get up a little earlier to take your dog out for a morning walk- we promise it’s much cooler these days and it will get you off to a great start as well. Walks, without cell phones to interrupt, are a good time for introspection. And your dogs get to sniff the world around them. Just remember to be zen about the doggy poop pickup.

5. Training and Dog Socialization
Chances are, you’ll be meeting other dogs on your walk. Routine walks are a great way to teach your pets how to interact in a healthy way with other dogs. If it’s been a while since your dog has seen another animal and thinks it’s human (meaning, it doesn’t remember how to “dog”), or it is fearful or anxious, be sure to enlist the help of a great trainer who uses positive reinforcement to help get them over that hump.

6. Strengthen your bond with your pup
Dogs have evolved over thousands of years to please humans. Descended from wolves, their bodies became smaller, from paws to fangs, they became less frightening and less fearful, the first domesticated animal and our constant companions. We bred them to be with us and want to be with us- so bear with them when they crave your attention. Give them quality time, structured as it must be around your schedule- but find time to fulfill this need. Love for you exists naturally, but a bond takes time and small daily commitments to instill.

So take the 30 minutes to an hour to walk with your dog and strengthen your relationship with shared experiences and a chance to reinforce great walking behavior and other commands. Notice whether your dog is checking in with you, making eye contact. When you get home, incorporate a new trick or reinforce old ones. The point is taking the time to build a relationship beyond simply feeding your dog and petting it whenever it’s convenient.

As with anything in life, dogs thrive with care and attention. Daily walks and exercise help give them entertainment, health, and quality time with you or their other favorite humans- including dog walkers like us! We also create bonds with your pups over time, and are happy to step up for you whenever you’re busy working. Email us at info@equipawspetservices.com, or call us at 305.794.3733 to chat about your dog care options!