How worried should you be about the recent confirmation of plague in Boulder?
Here’s the bottom line: Plague has actually been active in areas of Boulder (as well as neighboring areas) every year since 2005. If you take precautions, and know the disease symptoms to look for, then you don’t have much to worry about. Luckily, Dr. D is here to help you!
Plague in our area is mainly spread via fleas. It is commonly attributed to the prairie dogs, because they seem to be the most visibly and commonly affected, but fleas are the organisms you and your pets want to avoid. This, in turn, means avoiding rodents, including squirrels.
Most folks in Colorado aren’t in the habit of using flea prevention medications since fleas aren’t a huge problem here like they are in other states. However, it’s smart to apply a topical flea medication on your dogs if you take them hiking or walking near open spaces. Also, take extra care to keep your dog on a leash and away from wildlife, wildlife burrows, and dead or sick animals.
I think it goes without saying that YOU should also not touch any sick or dead animals, and maybe tuck your pants into your socks while hiking in areas where plague has been confirmed. Plague can be spread to you, as well as your pets.
If your cat is allowed outdoors to roam anywhere along the front range, a topical flea medication will be important for them as well. Outdoor cats are more likely to hunt and kill rodents, and therefore will be exposed to more fleas. All the suspected cases of plague that I have personally encountered have been among cats allowed outdoors in Colorado.
The signs of plague most commonly include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes.
If you notice these symptoms in your pets or humans, contact your veterinarian or medical provider right away. This disease can be treated with antibiotics, but it is important to start them as soon as possible.
You and your dogs don’t need to stop hiking for the rest of the season just because plague has been confirmed. You don’t have to lock your kitty indoors for the rest of her life. Just be smart and take these few precautions, and continue to enjoy our beautiful open spaces!
If you have more questions, contact Dr. D.
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