Summer means the warmth of sunshine and the smell of freshly-mowed grass, but it also means the insects come out in full force. Flies, fleas, mosquitoes, ticks – you can’t escape them. However, with the right control and prevention, you may be able to escape the diseases they can carry.
These tiny insects bite and feed on the blood of animals, causing problems that range from slight irritation to severe itching or lesions. Fleas reproduce quickly, and in just a few days can result in an infestation on your pet, your house and your backyard. A flea comb can help you detect the fleas and flea dirt on your pet.
One parasite fleas carry with them is tapeworm. Dogs and cats can easily get tapeworms by ingesting the flea, which will attach itself to the animal’s intestinal wall. Tapeworms are made up of small, independent segments that will break off into the intestines, resembling grains of rice in the stool. As these segments dry up, the eggs inside are released and will be ingested by flea larvae, continuing the cycle. In dogs and cats, tapeworms can cause weight loss, poor hair coat or anal itching, with a gradual decline in overall health if not treated properly.
Ticks are arachnids that feed on the blood of humans, mammals, livestock and more. They’re usually found in grassy, forested areas, and since they cannot fly, they are usually no higher than three feet above the ground. Ticks will attach themselves to the skin of their victim to find their next meal, falling off after they are satisfied. They carry a variety of diseases, including Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis and more.
Lyme Disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which causes fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, lameness, swollen lymph nodes and more in dogs. Ticks that carry Lyme Disease must be attached for 48 hours before transmission of the disease takes place, with symptoms occurring up to two to five months later. Treatment for Lyme Disease includes antibiotics such as tetracycline, doxycycline or amoxicillin.
Mosquitoes are flying insects that seem to affect every human or animal. Attaching to the skin, they feed on the blood and then leave itchy, irritating bites behind. Mosquitoes have a two week life cycle and reproduce rapidly, so it seems they never end. However, since they lay their eggs in standing water, it tends to limit how many grow. Mosquitoes carry a variety of diseases, including heartworm in dogs and cats, malaria in humans, equine encephalomyelitis in horses and West Nile in many animals.
The mosquito-based disease that affects pets the most is heartworm. Heartworms spend their lives in the blood vessels connecting the heart and lungs, eventually spreading to the right side of the heart. Heartworms develop and mature in six to eight months, but they may live up to five to seven years, obstructing the blood vessels that lead from the heart. Animals with heartworm don’t often show symptoms, though some may have a decreased appetite and weight loss, listlessness, cough, lack of endurance and more. The best way to avoid heartworm is through monthly preventatives.
Although many flies seem to fly around aimlessly, bugging everyone in their path, there are also many flies that feed on blood, causing numerous bites and potential infections. Since dogs are unable to defend the thin skin and hair around their face and ears, flies tend to seek out this area.
The fly bites cause small, hard, round bumps, called fly strike. These bites can be painful, itchy and bleed easily, creating the perfect breeding ground for fly eggs and maggots if left untreated. Antibiotic ointments and topical insecticides can be used to treat the infection and repel other flies from the area.
In general, there are a variety of products that can help prevent infestations and diseases from fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and other insects. Shampoos, sprays and dips will help kill the fleas and ticks that are already on your pet. Spot-on treatments and collars will give your pets further protection to prevent the pests from coming back. It’s also important to treat your home and yard with premise sprays or Diatomaceous Earth.