Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitoes Can Bug Pets, Too
Summer is finally here and all members of the family, the two and four-legged variety, will be spending more time outdoors soaking up the sunshine. However, pesky pests such as ticks, fleas and mosquitoes can quickly ruin a warm-weather day, especially for pets such as dogs and cats that can’t quite protect themselves the same way people do.
Each of these pests poses different dangers for furry family members, but by employing some key prevention tips, owners can ensure their animals stay pest-free this summer.
Whether hiking in the woods or simply enjoying a barbeque in the park, people and animals are likely to encounter these bloodthirsty pests. Ticks pose a number of health threats as they can transmit serious diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis and “tick paralysis” among others. While some symptoms can surface immediately after a tick bite, others can be difficult to recognize and many owners may not realize their pet is sick until the symptoms become severe and significant treatment is needed.
In addition to tick collars, medications and annual check ups, NPMA recommends the following tick tips:
- Upon returning indoors, inspect dogs and outdoor cats thoroughly.
- If a tick is found attached, it should be removed with a slow, steady pull so as not to break off the mouthparts and leave them in the skin. If possible, it’s best to use forceps or tweezers and grab on or just behind the mouthparts. If using fingers, the fingernails of the thumb and forefinger should be placed on or just behind the mouthparts. Once removed, flush the tick down the toilet or wrap it tightly in tissue before disposing in a closed receptacle since ticks are difficult to smush. Then, wash hands and the attachment site thoroughly with soap and water.
- Keep grass cut low, including around fence lines, sheds, trees, shrubs, swing sets and other difficult to cut locations and remove weeds, woodpiles and other debris from the yard.
- Inquire about lawn tick treatments; especially those that focus on the edges of the lawn where it interfaces with natural areas. This method has the greatest chance of preventing ticks from establishing themselves in your back yard.
Dogs and cats most often get infested with fleas through contact with other animals or by spending time outdoors. Most pets experience itching from fleas, but some sensitive animals can have more severe reactions such as hair loss, inflammation and secondary skin infections. Flea saliva can also cause anemia, dermatitis, and facilitate the transfer of tapeworms. Because of fleas’ ability to jump great heights, they are easily able to hitchhike into homes while hidden in the fur of family pets. Once inside, fleas quickly multiply and infest bedding, furniture and clothing.
Because fleas can quickly become a big problem, prevention is the best way for pet owners to avoid a major headache. NPMA suggests owners discuss which preventative measures are best for their pets as several effective products exist. Additionally, NPMA encourages owners to bathe their pets frequently, regularly wash human and pet bedding, pet collars and their plush toys, and vacuum carpets, floors and furniture on a regular basis.
One of the best known summer pests, mosquitoes breed in stagnant water and have an extremely fast life cycle allowing for quick population growth. Mosquito larvae hatch within a few days and a full adult develops in 10 to 14 days from hatching.
Just like humans, animals are at high risk for contracting severe illnesses as a result of mosquito bites. In addition to West Nile virus, heartworm is of most concern for pet owners as each year thousands of dogs become disabled or die from problems caused by heartworm disease. Although heartworm is less fatal in cats, it can cause a number of problems such as weight loss, blindness, seizures, difficulty breathing and coughing.
Green Pest Defense suggests the following mosquito prevention tips in and around the home:
- Prevent mosquito nesting and breeding sites by eliminating standing water and other sources of moisture in or around the home in flowerpots, water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, baby pools, sandboxes, children’s toys and other objects that can collect water. Mosquitoes need only about ½ inch of water to breed. To keep birdbath and pond water fresh, homeowners should add a fountain or drip system.
- Keep windows and doors properly screened. Repair even the smallest tear or hole.
- Clean clogged gutters and periodically check them to ensure water is flowing freely.
- Minimize outside activity between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Ask veterinarians about bug repellants for pets before using them.
- If you are concerned about mosquito activity on your property, contact a pest management company or local mosquito abatement district that may be able to treat your back yard, specifically trees and shrubs where mosquitoes hide during the day.