Protect Your Pets from Summer Pests
March 20th was the official start of spring this year, bringing with it warmer days, trees budding, plants in bloom. The mostly pleasant days of the season motivate us to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Additionally, our pets are ready to get out of the house to soak up the fresh air, (before the humidity and the temperature make that more challenging). Everything seems to thrive at this time of year as the cycle of new life begins again.
People and pets aren’t the only ones to take advantage of the warmer temperatures spring offers. Unfortunately, many insects are starting their growth cycle too. While most people dismiss mosquitos, fleas, and ticks as annoying pests, they can cause serious problems for many of us, and our pets. While every insect is not a disease carrier, the risk of serious illness is valid. If your pet is showing skin irritation by scratching, licking, or biting, these parasites may be the cause.
MOSQUITOES can transmit Heartworms; viral infections such as dengue fever, yellow fever, and West Nile Virus, (although there have been very few cases of West Nile Virus reported in canines); and bacterial infections, like tularemia, according to the CVBD.
FLEAS can transmit a variety of infectious organisms, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites; Bartonella felis (the bacteria that causes cat scratch fever), Enterovirus (one of the causative agents of viral meningitis), Cestodes (tapeworm), and others. Flea infestations often require several layers of control and can make your pet very uncomfortable. Read more at AVMA.com
TICKS can carry a variety of potentially fatal diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia (AKA "Rabbit Fever”), and viruses such as tick- borne encephalitis) and Tick Paralysis (caused by a neurotoxin in tick saliva). Potential tick dangers in Missouri have been described by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
MOSQUITOES: Use heartworm prevention as prescribed by your vet. Talk to your vet about the best treatment. Keep pets indoors when mosquitoes are most active, such as dawn, dusk and early evening. Change all outdoor water bowls throughout the day. Standing water can serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes – eliminate those areas wherever possible. Do NOT use mosquito control products containing DEET. Dogs and cats are extremely sensitive to DEET and may develop neurological problems if a product formulated with DEET is applied to them.
FLEAS: Your vet can prescribe preventive treatments. There are several safe and effective treatments available. If you believe your pet has possibly become a host to fleas, use a flea comb to search for and remove fleas. Comb your pet over white paper. If fleas are present, tiny black specks called “flea dirt” will fall on the paper. Dab some petroleum jelly on the comb to help make the fleas stick to the tines. Remember to check between your dog's toes, behind and in the ears, in the armpits, around the tail and head.
TICKS: Ask your vet to prescribe a tick and flea preventive. Again, there are several safe and effective treatments available. Using the right combination of environmental control and prevention is the best course to avoid irritating or harmful insect bites. Of course, preventing your pet from having access to the locations where ticks live, such as grassy or unmowed fields or wooded areas, reduces the chance of becoming a host. However, many suburban areas have wooded yards with access by deer and other animals that carry ticks. Ticks lurk on blades of grass or leaves and are drawn to animals’ coats by carbon dioxide, warmth, and other chemical attractants exuded by animals and people.
Typically, ticks on your pet are discovered by visual inspection of your pet’s skin, not by scratching or licking. Separating tufts of hair and closely inspect all body parts, especially favorite areas for the insect such as the head, ears, neck, and limbs.
If you discover a tick has embedded itself into your pet’s skin, carefully remove the whole tick from the pet's body. Ticks can transmit deadly diseases to a pet within 24 hours of a bite, so swift removal is key. Protect yourself by wearing gloves. Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible by gripping its head. Steadily pull upward until the tick releases the grip. Do not twist or jerk the tick or you might break off the head or mouth parts, leaving the tick head embedded in your pet's skin. Avoid squeezing – disease-spreading secretions may be released by squeezing to the point of crushing the tick. If the head is left in the skin, use a sterile needle to remove the head in the same manner as you would remove a splinter. When you’re sure the head and mouth parts were removed, use an antiseptic to disinfect the site and apply an antibiotic ointment.
Kill the tick by placing in a container with rubbing alcohol. Once the tick is dead, keep it in the container with a lid in case your pet begins displaying symptoms of disease. Be sure to thoroughly wash hands with soap and water.
Make sure to keep a close eye on your dog or cat over the next few weeks and be on the lookout for any strange symptoms including a reluctance to move, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and swollen lymph nodes. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your vet immediately.
The best treatment for insect bites in our pets is prevention. Healthy habits can help keep your pet from suffering from insect bites. Inspect your pet after each trip outdoors. Provide proper nutrition and exercise for your pet. Fleas and other parasites have less effect on healthy animals. Healthy animals recover from illness faster and in the case of contracting parasites, are more likely to have inherent immunities to parasites.
The staff at Back on Track is happy to discuss available options for prevention, and treatment if necessary, to keep your pet healthy and safe from insect bites. Though they are small creatures, they can cause big aggravation. Let us work with you to avoid that.