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MDARD Recognizes National Pet Preparedness Month 2024

Michigan Community NewsLansing, MI - This June, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) recognizes National Pet Preparedness Month. While the month is dedicated to the health and safety of animals during times of natural or man-made disasters, it is just as important to consider their everyday wellness.

"Any animal preparedness plan should begin with considering their general wellness. Working with your veterinarian can help ensure that you are doing everything possible to maintain their good health,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland, DVM, MS, DACVPM. “Keeping up with their core vaccinations, taking simple preventative steps to avoid illness, and making sure they have current identification can all help safeguard animals’ health and safety under any circumstance.”

Vaccines can play a critical role in preventing numerous diseases—some of which are zoonotic, meaning they can affect animals and people. For dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, and other animals, a core vaccination is for rabies. Rabies is zoonotic, often fatal, and carried by certain wildlife species including bats and skunks in Michigan. Pets and other animals can get rabies from bites or other interactions with rabid animals. As of June 13, 2024, there have been 15 cases of rabies detected across the state in bats. Highly safe and effective vaccines are available to protect animals against this virus.

Vaccinations are also vital to protecting the health of horses, especially from several mosquito-borne diseases, including West Nile virus (WNV), Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), and Western equine encephalitis. WNV and EEE are regularly seen in Michigan with EEE being particularly fatal. In 2023, four cases of WNV in horses were discovered and one confirmed case of EEE. For a majority of these detections, the animals were either unvaccinated or under-vaccinated. Several horses died or were euthanized due to the severity of their illness.

There are many other diseases that can impact the health of your animals. Contacting your veterinarian can help not only determine what vaccinations are best for your animals but also make sure these vaccinations are up to date.

Beyond vaccinations, talking to your veterinarian can ensure other steps are in place to prevent disease in your animals. Simple actions like washing your hands before caring for your animals, placing your shoes in an area where your animals cannot reach them, making sure animals do not have contact with wildlife, avoiding interactions with sick animals or animals with unknown health status, and avoiding shared bowls or toys can help maintain their good health. By reviewing how you care for your animals, your veterinarian can reveal some new ideas and strategies for keeping them healthy.

A final way to ensure the safety of your animals is to double check they have up-to-date identification. Whether they slip their leash, sneak out the door, jump a fence, or become lost during a hectic situation, it is vital for animals to have current identification tags and/or registered microchips so they can be quickly returned once they are found. Visiting your veterinarian can help you with verifying and/or obtaining your animals’ identification.

Overall, by thinking about the health and safety of your animals today, both you and your animals can be better prepared for any situation tomorrow.

For more information on animal diseases and animal health, please visit MDARD’s website. Also, for more resources on equine diseases (including cases in Michigan), please visit the Equine Disease Communication Center’s website.

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