Spring is Glorious (dogs and bugs agree)

Springtime has arrived in most areas of the country and this is a welcome season for all – including ticks and fleas.  According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, in conjunction with studies and predictions done by the National Weather Service, we can expect a higher number of fleas, ticks and mosquitoes due to warmer temperatures earlier than usual along with more predicted precipitation.

Nobody wants their pet to have either ticks or fleas. And – without hesitation – we don’t want a flea or tick infestation in our homes, much less ourselves being the food source for these parasites!  While we can’t eradicate either fleas or ticks from the world, we can take multiple measures to reduce or prevent fleas and ticks from being a nuisance or a danger to us, our homes and our pets.

These parasites can be more than just a nuisance: they can transmit other diseases to our pets as well as their human families. Diseases that are transmitted to humans via animals are called zoonotic disease. The process is called zoonoses (pronounced zoo-NO-sees). Fleas and ticks can be vectors for, or vehicles to spread, many of these diseases.

For some people, although zoonoses sounds disgusting, it also sounds like something that could never happen in their home. But the fact is these diseases can come along if fleas and ticks aren’t prevented and treated, and they can affect human health severely. One such disease that many of us have heard about is Lyme disease, transmitted by ticks. Ticks can spread many other, less well-recognized diseases that affect people as well.  They can spread ehrlichiosis which may cause fever, muscle aches, vomiting or more serious symptoms.  Many of those infected may need hospitalization. Tularemia is usually tick transmitted.  Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a tick-borne disease that can even be fatal if left untreated.

Fleas are no less a potential problem than ticks. Plague can be caused by fleas in certain areas of the country. Fleas can also create severe pruritis or itching in both our pets and us. Fleas can also be an intermediate host for tapeworms, meaning that if your pet has fleas they may also easily have tapeworms. So as you can see, it is extremely important to take precautions and use preventative measures to protect both your family and your pet from these unwanted parasites. We want to share many things with our pets, but disease shouldn’t be one of them.

A word of special caution for cat owners: some may say ‘I have a cat that is only indoors so, I don’t have to worry about fleas.’  This is not necessarily true, especially with regards to fleas! This is because you yourself can carry into the house the “hitchhiker” flea that then finds a way onto your cat, feeds by chomping down and sucking up a blood meal, lays hundreds of eggs, which in turn eventually develop into more adult fleas…that live on your cat (or dog, or in your carpet, or your bed!) Voila! Now you have a flea infested home.  If you have a multiple pet household (dogs, cats or both), all pets need to be protected since the dogs that go outside can bring the fleas or ticks to the cats as well.

I’ll be back next week to share some important tips on preventing flea and tick infestation, how to choose products safely and accurately and what to do if you’re already ‘under siege’ by these nasty bugs. You can watch this video where I share some of these tips if you want to get a jump start.

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