Here in the Northeast we didn’t have much of a winter, and we are now feeling repercussions with ticks and fleas. Some experts say it is the worst season ever.
Ticks and fleas are of serious concern for our pets, but we often forget that they also pose a risk to humans. Ticks on pets can easily crawl off and onto you, your children and other family members. Ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis and others. These diseases can be devastating to humans and even life-threatening. Cats are less prone to tick diseases than dogs, but they do exist, and unfortunately there are only a few preventatives available for use on cats. It is extremely important to consult your veterinarian for options, as some products are very toxic to cats.
Make sure to be vigilant in checking your pet (and yourself!) for ticks. To remove a tick, experts recommend wearing gloves. Using tweezers, grasp the tick by the mouthpart (the part that is attached to the skin) and pull. Sometimes the head of the tick can stay embedded in the skin. To dispose of the tick, do not throw it back outside! Put the tick in a small jar of rubbing alcohol. Do not crush ticks. By doing so, you can expose yourself to tick-transmitted diseases.
Flea numbers are up this season. The most common place to find fleas on your pet is near the base of the tail. Sometimes you can see them crawling on your pet’s belly, too. You may not see any fleas, but if you see specks that look like black pepper, that is flea dirt (flea poop)--evidence that fleas have been there! Fleas commonly transmit tapeworms in animals but can also transmit more serious diseases, such as the plague, to both pets and humans. The plague was recently diagnosed in a cat and a human in the Midwest. Additionally, fleas often cause itching and irritation to the pet’s skin. If your pet has fleas, first consult your veterinarian. He or she can help you develop a comprehensive eradication plan. Be patient. It can take up to six months to eliminate a flea infestation in your home, so prevention is key! I recommend year-round monthly flea and tick protection.
Remember that your veterinarian deals with these problems on a daily basis, and he or she is the best source for information about tick and flea control. So give your vet a call and protect your pets, your family and yourself from these pesky critters!
Dr. Sarah Alward is the veterinarian at the in Wainscott.