When the sun starts to peek out more and more frequently, Coloradians are eager to get out and about. The hiking trails get busier, campgrounds fill up and we Longmonsters are no different! As we and our pets get more and more active throughout the summer months, so too does the risk of fleas and ticks. Fleas and ticks are small arthropods that feed on blood from mammal hosts; many of which find our dogs to be the perfect hosts. These pesky creatures can be a danger to our pets in a number of ways. Fleas can cause anemia (low red blood cell count), due to the fact that they can consume fifteen times their own weight in blood. This can lead to other disorders, especially if your pet has a chronic flea infestation. If a flea is ingested orally, they can cause parasitic infections such as tapeworms. Additionally pets (and humans alike!) can be allergic to flea saliva causing reactions including rashes. Equally as dangerous, ticks can cause a number of illnesses, including Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tick Paralysis, and much more.
Many of the locations we all love to visit can be hot spots for fleas and ticks. Fleas live in forested areas, long grasses and shrubs and close to rivers and streams throughout the United States, especially during warmer times of year. Fleas can also be found in drier areas, and shaded bushes in yards. Typically fleas and ticks will inhabit areas frequently travelled by mammals, including people. Ticks will wait for hosts by hiding on the underside of leaves hoping for an unsuspecting passerby.
Though these little pests can cause a lot of harm, we can easily protect our pets from this danger; consistent and reliable flea and tick prevention is key! Prevention comes in topical ointments applied between the shoulder blades or oral treat-type medications that attack the insects’ nervous system after they have taken what is called a “bite-meal.” Most flea and tick prevention is given on a monthly basis. Some other simple steps can be taken to help protect our pets as well that don’t involve medications including:
-Avoiding heavy grassy areas where fleas/ticks might be found, i.e. grasslands, marshes, wooded areas etc. If visiting these areas be sure to administer flea/tick prevention prior to your adventure.
-Check for ticks on yourself and your pet. Make a habit of “combing” yourself and your furry friends from head to tail after you spend time outdoors.
-Maintain neat lawns, and plant plants that ward off these pests. Keep shrubbery to a minimum to discourage these pests from living in your yard. Fences may help keep some wildlife out slowing the spread of the insects. Plants with strong aromas such as mint and basil are also good deterrents for fleas.
In the unfortunate circumstance where a flea or tick is found on your pet, do not remove any of the parasites you find, instead contact your veterinarian immediately. If your pet is already on prevention your vet may recommend administering another dose of flea and tick preventative or may discuss a different treatment plan. If your pet is not on prevention, your vet may send home or apply prevention to eliminate the unwanted pests. Removal of a tick is best left to the professionals! If they are improperly removed they may be crushed allowing toxins to spill into the host’s bloodstream, or they may leave behind the jaw or head parts which can cause infection. If a tick is found on your pet, following removal, a blood test may be recommended to check for tick related diseases.
Fleas and ticks pose a unique threat to pets, but we are here to help. If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Family Pet Hospital at 303-485-1285. We are here to ensure your pets lead a happy and healthy life.