Summer’s pesky parasites persist

A mild winter means pet owners must stay vigilant for fleas and ticks

Dr. Carrie O'Loughlin of Delmar Animal Hospital.

Dr. Carrie O'Loughlin of Delmar Animal Hospital. Photo by Julie Cushine-Rigg.

“Lyme disease is bacterial, like strep throat, you can get it over and over again,” said O’Loughlin. She advised that you get your pet vaccinated every year for the disease, and said that’s is about 80 to 85 percent effective.

During most winters, flea cases are few and far between, but again this year is an exception to the rule.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in the number of animals with fleas. Normally during the winter, we’ll see maybe one or two cases of fleas but this year it’s probably five cases a day,” said Becker.

“We’re also seeing a larger number of strictly indoor cats with fleas,” said O’Loughlin, attributing the increase mainly to people carrying the bugaboos in from outside on their clothing.

“Usually pet owners can take the winter off and just treat dogs and cats for about an eight-month season for fleas. This year we’re recommending that the animals get treated for fleas and ticks year-round with medications like Advantix or Frontline,” she said.

Those medications, when used regularly, are effective at killing the fleas.

So after a stroll around the block or in the woods, take a few minutes and check your dog for any unwanted guests. A flea comb is really useful on thicker coats, while a brush for shorter haired breeds should suffice since you can usually spot the tiny animals through shorter fur.

How can you tell if your dog or cat has fleas if the little buggers head for the hills, or fur, as it were? A simple way, according to O’Loughlin, is to look on their stomachs. If you see little black specks that look like dirt, collect a few specks on a piece of white paper, add a drop of water to them and if they turn red, your pet has fleas. If they turn brown or stay black and just make mud, then you’ve got plain old dirt. The red is actually the flea excrement and is mostly blood that the fleas have ingested from your furry family member.

Both O’Loughlin and Becker have seen dogs with deer ticks in addition to fleas. If you do find a tick, which can look like a little blackspeck or small black bead when engorged with blood, it is recommended that you remove it promptly without crushing it, then disinfect the site of the bite, collect the tick in a zip-lock bag and see your veterinarian.

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