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As the warmer weather rolls out, we’re seeing Spring pet pests on the rise. It turns out that they’re as happy to see us and our pets as we are to wear fewer layers and take longer walks. Some of these bugs are just annoying, but a few can cause real trouble.
So, here’s a quick refresher about what to check for (and why). Along with the steps we’ve found to be most effective in keeping the peskiest pests off our pets (now there’s a tongue twister!).
Pet Pest #1: Ticks
There are a number of different types, but in a word, these are parasites. A tick infected with one of these diseases can transmit it directly into the host’s blood stream—and that might mean your dog, cat or you. Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis are fairly prevalent in our area right now, with about 10% of dogs tested showing up positive.
Symptoms can appear as quickly as 1 week after a bite, or as long as 5 months after it. These diseases can usually only be diagnosed through a blood test. So, always consult your veterinarian if you notice any of these signs in your pet:
- Lameness/limping or joint pain/swelling
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Poor appetite
- Nose bleeds or bruising/anemia
- Unusual lethargy
Lyme Disease is among the most common tick-borne disease. Fortunately, since the tick has to be attached for 36-48 hours for bacteria to transmit the bacteria that causes it, you can help avoid problems by brushing your dog (and checking yourself) after each walk. Ticks can move very quickly, so don’t delay!
The CDC offers some excellent tips on removing ticks and what to do once you’ve found them.
Pet Pest #2: Fleas
Another biting parasite, fleas are extremely common. They jump from place to place—easily. Fleas also lay thousands of eggs at a time, which makes it easy for your pet (and you, and your home) to become infested.
The trouble with these critters is that their blood-sucking habits can cause anemia, activate skin allergies, and lead to itching that leads to scratching, scabbing, and infections. You’ll often see pets with fleas becoming restless—just as you do if you’re being bitten.
If you mingle with feral or predominantly outdoor cats, you may encounter fleas with Bartonella (a.k.a. Cat Scratch Fever). It’s possible for house cats to get infected, too, just less common. Implement the steps below to help reduce your odds of flea fury.
Pet Pest #3 & 4: Biting flies and mosquitos
Black fly bites are painful, there’s no doubt, and will most likely make your pet unhappy, but generally they don’t create any lasting problems. You’ll see welts or large coin-sized red marks—and if they get a large number you may need to cover the area so your pets don’t keep scratching them.
Mosquitos are more of a concern because infected bugs can cause heartworm, and to a lesser extent West Nile virus and Influenza. The heartworm risk is one of the main reasons that most veterinarians like to have pets on preventive medication, so consult yours for advice.
Top tips for protecting against Spring Pet Pests:
Clear away the places they call home: Keep your lawn mowed; trim back shrubs; clear away wooded paths and any dense dead vegetation.
Keep your pet groomed and clean: wash off any surface dirt and/or residual feces or urine; keep hair trimmed; brush and comb regularly—using a tick or flea comb with very fine teeth if you spot any signs—of pests.
Check and remove pests regularly—acting quickly to remove pests is critical:
- Pest Controlling Shampoos can be helpful. You’ll need to leave the product on for 10 minutes or more to kill the eggs and suffocate the adults.
- Chemical pest deterrent products like collars, sprays, ointments and powders.
- And you’ll also need to treat your home, and any other pets.
Get your veterinarian’s advice: based on your pet’s habits, they’ll be able to recommend the appropriate preventive treatments to reduce the odds that fleas, ticks, flies, mosquitos and other critters will take up residence. And you’ll definitely want to consult with them regarding treatment if your pet is suffering.
There’s no need to let Spring pet pests keep you inside! These few proactive steps can help you and your pets enjoy the warmer weather and stay healthy too.