Sixteenth century poet John Donne once said, “The flea, though he may kill none, he does all the harm he can.” Parasites are definitely unwelcome guests at any time of year, whether they are microscopic bacteria or blood-engorged ticks the size of a pea, and these pests are more than nuisances…many carry diseases that can impair or even threaten your dog’s life. It is estimated that Americans spend more than a billion dollars a year in an attempt to get rid of parasites from their pets and homes, and when these jumping, biting pests appear in the spring, most pet caregivers rush out to buy preventative treatment in an effort to curb “the harm they can do.” However, as temperatures drop, many seem to feel that they can stop worrying about flea and tick infestations. The truth is that fleas can be more prevalent in October and November than at any other time of year. Throughout the summer, flea populations have increased and are peaking in the fall, and as the weather cools down, the pesky critters instinctively seek out warm bodies and other warm places to feed and exist and lay eggs. Fleas can lay dormant for long periods in the larva and pupa stages until environmental conditions rouse them, and unless flea preventatives are used well into the winter. Problems such as flea bite dermatitis and possibly tapeworms may develop.
Ticks have also been abundant all summer, and they are still alive and well, even though cooler weather has arrived. Ticks are tough, and can hibernate and survive very cold weather, and although they probably won’t invade your home like fleas do, they can bring diseases into the house by clinging to your clothing or your pets. Ticks have become synonymous with Lyme disease, but most ticks do not carry this disease, and even if they are infected, they only begin transmitting disease if they are allowed to remain attached and feed for sustained periods of time, so it is important to examine your dog every day to locate and immediately remove any ticks. Work through his coat with a fine-toothed comb, and use your hands to feel all over for any suspicious bumps and creepy crawlers. When ticks are engorged with blood, they are visibly swollen and purplish, but unfed ticks will resemble tiny brown scabs, and are easy to miss. There are effective products to deal with both ticks and fleas, but DO NOT buy over-the-counter products which may be toxic to your pet. Always check with your veterinarian before using any parasite prevention product! Other parasites that drain a dog’s vitality can be quickly identified by a fecal sample. Fecal samples should be taken in to your vet regularly, so if a bug is found, it can be treated and eliminated. It is easier to expend a little extra time, energy, and money to prevent parasites from causing major harm.
Mosquitoes have been terrorizing both humans and canines this fall, and mosquitoes are the culprits in transmitting potentially lethal heartworm. Unlike fleas and ticks that live on your dog, mosquitoes just drop by for a quick meal, and then are gone, but they have the potential to transmit life-threatening diseases such as heartworm which can be fatal to an animal. We encourage responsible pet caregivers to be diligent in the consistent use of VET APPROVED flea, tick and heartworm prevention products.
Everyone is afflicted by “the fleas” of life”—you know, colds, bills, broken bones, and little nuisances of one sort or another. Let’s strive to eliminate all the fleas—from our dogs, and from our lives.