It’s Spring. At least I think its Spring! With the weather we’ve been experiencing sometimes it’s hard to tell. But one thing is certain, the days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, and I’ve already seen my share of fleas, ticks, flies, and mosquitoes, all of which make life miserable for you and your pets. Each of them is a nuisance, but more challenging is the potential of disease they can carry!
Hopefully, you all enjoyed this past winter as much as my animals and I did. Unfortunately, so did the ticks! Record breaking temperatures spared many of them and their offspring. If you spend as much time outdoors as I do, you’ve probably already removed a few. With those ticks, come the possibility of Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Bartonella, and Tick Bite Paralysis, all of which have been diagnosed in our area.
It cannot be over stated to check yourself and your pets after spending time outdoors. Ticks should be removed from the skin ASAP since disease can be transferred in as little as 12–24 hours after a tick has embedded itself in the skin. Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull straight out. Any piece of the tick, which might be left behind, will fall out eventually and is usually not a cause for concern.
Dogs seem to be the overwhelming “victims.” But cats and horses are susceptible as well. Clinical symptoms include lethargy, recurrent acute arthritis with lameness, fever, anorexia, and depression. Any of these signs should warrant a visit to your veterinarian. If left untreated, tick borne illnesses can progress to irreparable heart, kidney and/or neurological disease.
Fleas are another parasite waiting to infest your pet, and quite possibly your home long before you are even aware they’re there! Owners should be vigilant in checking for fleas on their pets. Compulsive itching and/or biting, +/- hair loss, and scabs usually warrant further investigation. A fine-toothed flea comb helps. And flea dirt – small black spots of dried blood on your pet’s skin – is a major warning sign! Some animals are hypersensitive to flea saliva and one flea bite can wreak havoc! Intense itching, severe hair loss and self-mutilation are typical symptoms of a flea allergy.
Sometimes owners complain that product XYZ doesn’t work anymore. When fleas are discovered, it is imperative that all pets in the household be treated at the same time and for at least 3 months in order to eradicate the problem and prevent re-infestations. Treatment of the premises is also required. Talk to your veterinarian for the product best suited to your situation for flea and tick control.
There are many products available to control and prevent fleas and ticks from invading your pets and your home. But it is important to note that some products bought over the counter can be extremely toxic to your pets if not used according to the label! In my experience, I’ve seen more than several cases where over the counter products specifically formulated for dogs were mistakenly used on cats. At best, these cats hyper-salivate and tremor. At worst, they seizure (sometimes for several days) or suffer permanent effects. Some succumb to the toxin even after intensive nursing care. Make sure the product you are using is proven safe for the animal you are using it on. Pediatric, geriatric, and medically compromised animals may not be able to tolerate certain products. ALWAYS read the label and apply properly. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian.
The great outdoors is still THE place to be this time of year, but a little pre-planning can make it a much safer and happier place for you and your pets!
Mary Jean Calvi, LVT is a Licensed Veterinary Technician at Pawling Animal Clinic. She and her sons raise miniature horses, sheep, chickens, pigs, and steers, as well as dogs, cats, rabbits and birds “rescued” on the job.