Warmer weather is finally here, bringing with it the much less welcome nuisance of blood sucking parasites. Ticks are already out in full force and fleas and mosquitoes will soon make themselves at home, dining on you and your pet. As a responsible pet-owner, it is essential to safeguard your pets from these unwanted pests.
Fleas can invade your home before you even realize it. Your carpets and bedding may harbor millions of immature flea eggs and larvae before you even see as much as one adult flea. Adult fleas can lay up to fifty eggs in one day, and larvae feed on the feces of the adult fleas. If fleas are observed, it is vital to treat all dogs and cats in the home as well as thoroughly cleaning all carpets and bedding and chemical treatment may be necessary.
Not only are flea bites maddeningly itchy for humans and animals alike, but fleas can act as a vector to disease. Fleas played an integral role in the transmission of the bubonic plague, and are capable of spreading a variety of blood-borne diseases and nasty bacterial and viral infections. They can also infect their host with tapeworms.
Ticks are nasty members of the arachnid family who also carry a wide variety of unpleasant diseases. In fact, Lyme disease if found in epidemic proportions in this area, with nearly half of dogs infected. Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Ehrlichia are the most common tick borne diseases. Cats and dogs should be tested twice a year for tick borne disease as they can become chronic and rob years from their lives.
While ticks won’t infest your home, they can make your yard their home. Treating your yard is important to reduce the number of ticks your pet contracts. Chemical sprays are available, and natural options include diatomaceous earth or a pair of guinea fowl, which can keep an acre apiece tick-free. Checking your dog thoroughly after each walk is an easy way to reduce the risk of ticks attaching to him or you. Investing in a specialized tick remover is worthwhile, since pulling a tick off by hand can result in it becoming traumatized and expelling the contents of its body into your pet. Additionally it is possible for the mouthparts to be left behind when the tick is pulled off by hand increasing the possibility of infection.
Mosquitoes are integral in the transmission of heartworms. Some spot on treatments and collars repel mosquitoes. Keeping your dog indoors at peak mosquito hours and out of swampy areas in the summer time are good ideas, and treating your lawn for mosquitoes is also an option. Annual heartworm tests are recommended.
All pest control products should be used all year round, due to the flea’s long life cycle. Proper prevention eliminates the possibility of an infestation. Options include:
• Spot-on treatments: These are oil based treatments that soak through the skin rapidly and become part of the treated animal’s sebaceous system. Every oil droplet secreted post treatment contains a small dose of insecticide. Typically the active ingredient attacks the nervous system of the parasite and their internal organs shut down. Most also include a growth inhibitor to prevent larvae from reaching adulthood.
• Flea and tick collars: flea and tick collars often use the same chemicals as the spot on treatments, but they supply a continuous low dosage of the chemical and often are effective longer.
• Natural options:
o Diatomaceous earth: diatomaceous earth is a powder created from the remains of diatoms, a microscopic water plant. This product dries fleas out, killing them. It can be applied topically as a flea powder and throughout the household to destroy eggs and larvae. It is recommended to apply it wet and let it dry to prevent it from getting it into your pets eyes, nose or ears. It is important to use food grade diatomaceous earth.
o Essential oil sprays and wipes: certain oils such as rosemary, cedar, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, lavender, and geranium repel parasites.
Always read labels for pest control products thoroughly. Cats and small dogs are especially sensitive to chemicals and essential oils so monitor them closely after applying any treatments.
Article by Jenny Cournoyer
Jenny is an employee at Maggie’s and a graduate of UMASS Amherst, she has studied Pre-vet and Animal Science and is very knowledgeable about pet care and nutrition