Those beautiful spring days bring with them a pesky nuisance – fleas and ticks. These critters not only cause our pets to itch and scratch, they can carry diseases. Pets that are allergic to fleas can have a severe reaction to even one flea.
What time of year do we worry about fleas and ticks? They start hatching out in the early spring, as soon as we have several consecutive 60 degree days. As the weather gets cold, the fleas will be killed after a few good frosts, but ticks can persist late into the fall or even through a very mild winter. Of course, if fleas are already in your house, they can remain there throughout the cold weather.
Contrary to popular belief, fleas do not live out in the grass. Adult fleas only live on animals. What gets into the environment is the eggs. Flea eggs are slippery and they slide off the pet into the carpet or grass. These eggs then hatch into larvae. The larvae grow into a pupal stage, and they can stay at this stage for a long period of time. Vibrations, such as those caused by an animal walking by, will cause the adult flea to come out of the pupae and jump onto the pet. Your pet does not have to be directly exposed to an animal with fleas to become infected. He just has to walk through the same place a flea infected animal passed by.
Where do ticks live? Adult ticks like to inhabit areas with tall grasses and brush. They climb up to the tips of the grass, and from there they can jump onto you or your pet. They don't reproduce in the house like fleas will. Therefore, pets that are completely indoors are at very low risk of tick infestation. Pets that go to parks, wooded areas, or near unkempt outdoor areas such as meadows or even some backyards are at highest risk.
What kind of diseases do these parasites introduce? Tapeworms are the main threat that fleas bring. Ticks carry Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesia, Ehrlichia and several other infectious diseases. In addition, both of these parasites can lead to anemia, especially in very young or very old animals.
The good news is, it is now very easy to protect your pet from these threats. There are several very effective products available that, used monthly, will keep away these pests. The products that are the most effective and least toxic to your pet are available only through veterinarians. Talk to your vet to see which product is best for your pet. Beware of over-the-counter products that claim to protect pets, but really use the older and more toxic chemicals. When you use the appropriate medications correctly, you can help your pet be flea and tick free.