Pet Talk: Beware of fleas and ticks this spring in Colorado (column)
Happy spring. What a better way to celebrate the return of warm weather than chatting about parasites, specifically fleas and ticks.
Well, as a veterinarian and pet owner myself, I’m not a fan of blood sucking fleas and ticks and will do anything to keep them away from my pets and myself.
With warmer weather comes more than just fresh green grass and blooming trees. Fleas and ticks are indeed present in the valley all the way from Vail to Dotsero and everywhere in between. Not only do they cause skin irritation to your pet when they bite them but they also carry disease. As veterinarians, we take this into account with each pet we see and make recommendations for treatment and preventatives accordingly.
Fleas are very irritating little creatures that can cause discomfort to your dog or cat and can carry tapeworms and the bacteria that causes plague. We are lucky in that we live in a part of Colorado where plague is not a large concern, however tapeworms are very common around here.
Lucky for you and your pets, fleas are very easy to prevent and kill. There are both topical and oral products that are administered every one to three months that can prevent fleas from becoming a problem with your pet and in your home.
Ticks are nasty little bugs that are seen quite frequently in our county and are especially present in the tall grass and in the woods — both of which are favorite recreation spots in the summer time for you and your pets.
Ticks crawl onto your pet and attach themselves, all the while feeding directly from their bloodstream. Once a tick is attached to your pet, they can transmit disease directly into their bloodstream. Ticks carry several different types of diseases. Your veterinarian can test for several of these diseases quite easily using a simple blood test that can be performed in house.
Anaplasma is a bacteria that causes anaplasmosis which is a tick-borne disease that comes in two forms. This disease can cause joint pain, lameness, platelet destruction, gastrointestinal upset, coughing, neurological deficits and overall chronic disease in your dog. Treatment can be expensive and hard on your pet, therefore it is recommended that we try to prevent ticks from becoming a problem in the first place.
Ehrlichia is a type of bacteria that is transmitted by ticks that infects and lives within the white blood cells of your pet. White blood cells are responsible for your immune system functioning properly, so you can imagine what happens when something wreaks havoc on it. Ehrlichiosis can cause platelet destruction, lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes, organ function disorders, neurological deficits and overall chronic disease in your dog. Very much like Anaplasma, it is best to prevent ticks from becoming a problem in the first place rather than risk having to treat your dog for disease.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is caused by a parasite that is transmitted from an infected tick to your pet and can also be harmful to them.
We are lucky in Colorado that we do no have to deal with Lyme disease. The deer tick, which is what carries and transmits Lyme disease, is not present in Colorado. However, if you plan on traveling to the Midwest or East Coast, then it is likely your pet can be exposed to Lyme disease. Be sure to plan accordingly.
Not only do fleas and ticks carry disease but they can also get caught in your pets ears, causing severe irritation and infection.
Please consider using a flea and tick preventative on your pets this spring and summer — they may not say it out loud, but I assure you they thank you for it.
Elizabeth Foster is an associate of Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, owner of Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center. You can reach Fitzpatrick at 970-328-7085.
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