Bugs Be Gone

Bugs Be Gone

39083530_mlFleas, ticks and mosquitoes can make our pets itch and scratch. But did you know that each one of these pests can transmit serious diseases to your pets — and to you as well?

In a pet with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), even one flea bite can cause a cascading reaction of itching, irritation and secondary bacterial infection. Far from being a rare overreaction to fleas, FAD is the most common allergic skin disorder in pets. And allergic or not, all pets can be infected with tapeworm from the bite of a flea. Fleas can also bite humans, and a few fleas can lead to a complete infestation of your carpets, bedding, upholstery and yard.

Once it’s in full bloom, a flea infestation can be extremely difficult to eradicate.

And what about mosquitoes? These pests make people itch, but their risk to pets goes far beyond discomfort. Mosquitoes can transmit heartworms, a parasite that’s a serious problem in dogs and increasingly in cats (even indoor cats). Many cases of feline asthma and bronchitis are now thought to be caused by heartworm infection. Heartworm disease can be debilitating, lengthy, difficult and expensive to treat, but it’s easy to prevent with medication from your veterinarian. More information on canine and feline heartworm disease can be found at www.heartwormsociety.org.

Probably the most dangerous of all the pests that afflict our pets is the tick. Ticks can spread Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and babesiosis. These immune-system disorders can be hard to diagnose and difficult to treat. Because their symptoms can mimic so many other diseases, they are often not detected until well advanced, at which time it can be too late.

Symptoms of tick-borne diseases include fevers, lameness that can shift from limb to limb, difficulty breathing, lethargy and not eating. Ticks can be as tiny as the period at the end of this sentence, so relying on combing or hand-searching to control ticks is not effective. Worse, removing them by hand can increase the likelihood they’ll transmit disease to your pets.

Even if your dog has been vaccinated against canine Lyme disease, don’t let up on the tick-prevention effort. There are no vaccines for any of the other, even more dangerous tick diseases. Many ticks carry multiple diseases and can transmit more than one at the time they bite your dog.

Your veterinarian can detect canine heartworm disease, Lyme disease, and two other tick-borne diseases (ehrlichiosis canis and anaplasmosis) with a single, in-house test. This diagnostic tool is important to detect diseases that, left untreated, can cause life-threatening illness in dogs.

Given the seriousness of the diseases spread by ticks, fleas and mosquitoes, there’s no question that prevention is the best course. In the past, pet owners had to rely on messy, time-consuming and non-environmentally friendly dips, bombs and sprays. Those days are gone with the introduction of topical preventives that repel and kill fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. Some even control internal parasites and ear mites.

Diseases carried by parasites vary from region to region, although in today’s increasingly mobile society that’s less true. Talk to your veterinarian about the problems in your area and about the products that can protect your pet.