Archive | June, 2018

Pesky Fleas – help!!

Fleas are a type of insect that survives on the blood of other animals, mainly mammals and birds. The fleas typically seen in our area are known as cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis), and can infect dogs and cats. Fleas are transmitted between animals. While fleas can bite humans, it is rare they will inhabit a human and lay eggs. The flea has four life cycles: egg, larva, pupal, and adult. Adult female fleas lay eggs on a host, which can shed into the bedding area of the animal. Once the eggs hatch into larva, the larvae feed on organic matter shed from the remaining adults on the animal. The larvae spin a cocoon for the pupal stage, which they will stay in until they detect a host. Once they find a new host, they emerge from the cocoon as adult fleas. Adult fleas are the stage that takes up residence on our pet. In order to produce eggs, adult fleas need to acquire a blood meal and once they do, adult fleas will lay one egg per hour. The eggs will continue to drop off the host during this time.

If your pet becomes infested with fleas, it is important to fully treat the pet and the environment. Some people overlook the environment and then their pet becomes re-infested. It’s best to keep up with regular preventative treatments for you pet, and to regularly wash animal bedding. Be mindful of the products you use, as some are specified for different life stages of the flea. Most are directed at adult fleas and designed to enter the bloodstream so that when the flea goes to take a blood meal, they die. Adult fleas can go 1-2 days without eating. Some products are designed to target eggs as well or to kill adult fleas on contact. Feel free to consult with your veterinarian, as fleas can go through different patterns of resistance to products. Veterinarians will be informed about these resistance phases and can recommend a product that is best for your area.

It’s important to note that fleas are not just a nuisance to our pets and us, but can also spread diseases. There has been a recent increase in the number of infections being contracted from fleas in humans and pets. Fleas can spread diseases through biting their hosts or from being ingested by other animals. The most common affliction from flea infestations is the rashes and itching caused by the fleabite but fleas can also spread plague, typhus, and cat-scratch disease. Fleas can also spread tapeworms to pets when infected fleas are ingested during grooming. If your pets have had a recent flea infestation and any member of your household, furry or human, are experiencing flu-like symptoms, it is recommended to visit your doctor.

To learn more about fleas visit here

Mosquitoes and Your Dog

Mosquitoes are a type of fly that live off nectar and juices from plants and the blood of other animals. They are typically crepuscular, which means they are active at dawn and dusk, but we all know that mosquitoes can be nuisances at any time during the day depending on what you are doing and where you are. The saliva of the mosquito when it bites its host is what causes the itchy rash we experience when in contact with them. If you’ve ever noticed that mosquitoes seem to target some people more than others, you are right. Past research has shown that mosquitoes prefer humans with Type O blood, heavy breathers, those with higher body heat, skin bacteria, or those who are pregnant or carrying a beer.  Some mosquitoes, particularly those carrying Zika seems to enjoy the smell of feet as well, so beware of open-toed shoes when in heavily mosquito-infected areas.

Because mosquitoes live off the blood of other animals, they can cause the spread of many serious diseases such as West Nile virus, malaria, Zika virus, and dengue fever just to name a few. The prevalence of diseases being spread by mosquitoes is getting worse every year which is a cause for concern and a huge reason to try to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes as best you can this summer. Utilizing repellents and wearing lose fitting pants, long-sleeved shirts, and shoes are the best ways to avoid being bitted. For information on which repellents work best and other information on avoiding mosquito bites, visit this article from NPR.

Mosquitoes are also responsible for spreading heartworm to our dogs. Heartworms are worms that live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected animals. They can live in dogs and cats, and in wild animals such as wolves, foxes, and coyotes. Once inside a new host, the heartworm can take 6 month to mature into an adult, and then can live in the host for years. The animal can continue acquiring heartworms, which means an animal can have several of these worms in their body at one time. The longer the worm is allowed to live inside a dog, the worse the symptoms get. Heart failure or other severe cardiovascular events can occur if not detected or treated. Symptoms of heartworm disease include a mild cough, fatigue, lethargy, and decreased appetite. To protect your dog from heartworm, the easiest thing to do is to be proactive. Give your dog a monthly heartworm preventative year round, and include heartworm testing in your annual visit with your veterinarian.

Ticks – important information

All New Englanders should be very familiar with ticks. Ticks are arachnids, meaning they are in the same class as spiders and scorpions, but are considered a type of mite. Ticks live off the blood of other animals and detect prey through vibrations in the environment and detecting the body heat of passing animals. When they are ready for their next meal, they “quest,” which means they hold on to vegetation, such as grasses, and outstretch their front legs waiting for an animal to pass so they can grab on.

The most common and problematic tick in the area is the deer tick, otherwise known as the black-legged tick. These are the ticks that spread Lyme disease, which is caused by bacteria that is spread when the tick attaches to a host for a blood meal. Lyme disease is often transmitted early in the warmer seasons because the ticks are smaller and harder to detect, but transmission can happen at any time. Luckily, your chance of catching Lyme disease is minimal if you remove the tick from the skin within 24 hours. If you are doing any traveling this summer, check out this website from the CDC. It provides the geographic ranges of ticks in the U.S. so you know which species to be on the look out for wherever you go.

There are a couple of ways to prevent tick bites in the first place. The easiest would be to avoid tall grasses and highly vegetative areas all together, but with such beautiful hiking areas in New England, who wants to do that! Another thing you can do is to wear light-colored pants, tall socks, and long-sleeve shirts while hiking. This will create a barrier between yourself and the tick (you can also try tucking your pants into your socks), and make it easier to see ticks crawling on you. Apply tick repellent to your clothes and any exposed skin. When you get home, completely remove all clothing and dry them on high heat to remove any lingering ticks. Completely check your body for ticks multiple times. Even if you don’t see one immediately after hiking, they could be lingering on you somewhere and attach eventually. Showering within 2 hours after hiking can help remove hidden ticks that haven’t attached yet. Young ticks can be small and look like specks of dirt or a freckle, so be thorough in your search. Use a thin comb through your hair before and after washing it to be sure no ticks are hiding out there.

For your pets, administering regular tick repellents is the best way to prevent tick bites. Tick repellents can be administered with spot-on topical medications or given orally in a chew, similar to heartworm medication. There is a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs available through your veterinarian to help further protect your dog. Even if your pet is on a regular preventative, it is still important to perform daily tick checks. Ticks like to migrate to warm, moist places, so especially check in the ears and any other areas of the bodies with creases that would be easy for ticks to hide in. If you have a pet with long fur, use a fine-toothed comb to check the fur and look along the skin line to find ticks.

Ticks are best known for spreading Lyme disease but ticks in the New England area can also spread a number of other diseases including some new ones that doctors are still learning about. In general, symptoms from tick bites that might indicate you should seek medical attention from a doctor include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and other flu-like symptoms.  Visit this site from the CDC for the full list of diseases that can be spread by ticks and the associated symptoms.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease:

If you enjoy the outdoors, be mindful to monitor your health for symptoms of Lyme disease. It is entirely possible to have a tick feeding off of you and never find it. Symptoms can occur within 3-30 days after being bitten by a tick.

Symptoms include:

* Headache
* Fatigue
* Muscle and joint pain
* Fever
* Swollen lymph nodes
* Bull’s-eye rash (it’s common to have a rash after removing a tick, but one indicating Lyme disease will look like this picture)

Symptoms in dogs include:

* Fever
* Lethargy
* Lameness
* Loss of appetite
* Swelling of joints

To learn more about ticks, visits the Tick Encounter Resource Center through the University of Rhode Island.