By the time the snow on the ground turns into mud and the days are noticeably growing longer, everyone is eager for spring to arrive. Spring brings flowers, songbirds, and best of all—warm weather! Unfortunately, spring also brings fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. Ugh! Time to make an appointment with your veterinarian for an annual check up and to have discussion about these insects that can cause your pets so much harm.
Decades ago fleas were found in a limited range; primarily in the south and southeast. Today, however, you can find them anywhere!
Fleas are tiny little insects, but the trouble they can cause is huge. Each time a flea bites, it takes a drop of blood. While that might not seem like much, an infested dog may have hundreds of fleas. Puppies, small dogs, debilitated dogs, or dogs with huge infestations can become anemic.
Many dogs and cats will have an allergic reaction to flea bites. You will notice them scratching, chewing, and biting at themselves. Worst of all, fleas can also transmit bacterial infections and even tapeworms! Gross!
In the past the only way to discourage fleas was to bomb the house, spray poisons, use powders, or flea collars; all of which were hazardous in one way or another. Thankfully today there are many other, more natural options.
There are two basic things to look for, products that repel fleas and products that kill fleas at all stages of life. There are topical treatments, chews, collars, and even some sprays and grooming products to choose from. Some are available over the counter while others are available only through your veterinarian. Come in and ask one of our knowledgeable Pack Members which option could be right for your pet.
If fleas are annoying, ticks are potentially life threatening. There are many different species of ticks, including American dog ticks, brown dog ticks, deer ticks, Gulf Coast ticks, and several others.
Ticks attach themselves to the host animal and then feed on their blood.One tick won’t drink too much blood, and it drops off when full, but an infestation of ticks can consume more blood than you can imagine.
The worst dangers from ticks, however, are the diseases that they can transmit to their host. Although several diseases cause significant health problems, the worst right now seems to be Lyme Disease. Caused by bacteria carried by some ticks, this disease is more common in the north east portion of the US but has been found in several other states. Lyme disease causes flu like symptoms, including achy joints and lethargy.
Many flea preventatives also repel or kill ticks as well, but you should always check the label to make sure. Again, some products are available over the counter while others are only available at your veterinarian.
Whereas fleas and ticks are insects, heartworm is an internal parasite that is transmitted by an insect, mosquitoes. If an infected mosquito bites an animal, it transmits the heartworm larvae to the animal. This parasite grows and matures in the host animal and eventually moves to the heart where the mature worms fill the heart. This slows blood flow through the heart.
Heartworm is at its worst, its densest, in the Mid-Atlantic states and southeast, but it’s starting to spread throughout the country. Its numbers are increasing even in southern California; a long way from its origins.
Your dog or cat must be tested to make sure it isn’t already carrying heartworms prior to beginning a heartworm preventive. If your pet has heartworms it must be treated first; then can be put on a preventive.
In cold climates, pets are usually given the preventive only for those months when mosquitoes are prevalent. The pet must then be tested each spring before starting the preventive again. In southern states where mosquitoes are (or can be) found all year round, the preventives are given all year and retesting is usually not required.