September: Your Pets Aren’t Safe from Fleas and Ticks!

If you thought this year’s winter would kill off fleas and ticks, making the fall pest-free, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, deer ticks, carriers of Lyme disease, weathered the season just fine, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, and are expected to continue spreading disease at high rates. I bet you wouldn’t believe me if I said that September is the second busiest flea and tick month. It’s true!

Ticks and Lyme Disease 

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness. It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted through the bite of an infected deer tick. Since 2009, the prevalence of Lyme disease in dogs has spiked 21 percent. And, the disease isn’t limited to pets: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 300,000 Americans get Lyme disease each year!

According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), canine diagnostic testing for tick-borne disease agents is up 149 percent. The exact causes of the increase are unknown, but they could potentially be correlated with greater outdoor exposure, disease changes and increased tick infestation. As a result, the CAPC forecasts the threat of Lyme disease to expand westward this year, beyond the typical hot spots in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Fleas: More Than  Itchy Pests

Like ticks, fleas are capable of spreading a number of diseases that affect pets and humans. Unfortunately for us and our pets, fleas are being aided by changes in climate that lead to longer seasons and fewer fleas being killed off over winter.

Have you ever experienced a flea infestation? I have and they are NOT fun. With 64 percent of dogs sleeping in their owner’s bedroom, this concern is real. In addition, as the number of multiple pet-owning households continues to grow, so does the concern of a flea infestation. Flea infestations begin long before fleas can be seen. In fact, active adults make up only about 5 percent of an infestation, meaning that 95 percent of the fleas lurking around your pet, home and yard are pre-adult fleas. Gross!

Diseases caused or spread via fleas include:

  • Dog tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum): Despite the name, tapeworm can infect cats and humans, particularly children, as well as dogs. Symptoms may include mild weight loss along with itching around the anal area caused by passing segments of tapeworm.
  • Flea allergy dermatitis: One of the most frequent causes of skin conditions in small animals and a major clinical issue in dogs and cats. Symptoms include rashes and swelling along with self-trauma due to excessive scratching. Prolonged exposure can lead to chronic lesions, infection and changes to skin structure.

So, how can you win against the war on fleas and ticks while keeping your pet and family safe? Although fall is (nearly) here, it’s important to continue protecting your pet and family from these pests and the diseases they spread!

 

 

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