Fleas and ticks pester mountain pets | VailDaily.com

Fleas and ticks pester mountain pets

Nadine Lober

Unfortunately there are some nasty parasites that harass our pets. Fleas usually do not live comfortably at higher elevations or dry climates, though that’s rule’s not written in stone. I am always very surprised when I see one of my patients scratching in the mountains because there is not the degree of flea infestation as in warm coastal climates, such as California or Florida. There have been occasional fleas seen on dogs in Vail and there are some very safe and effective flea control products on the market. Fleas can infest cats – even housecats – as well as dogs. These nasty creatures are easy to spot if there are large numbers of them, but most of the time you will first notice the black flea dirt on your pet. This is actually the flea feces – yuk. Sometimes the flea will bite the dog inject its saliva into the pet and then jump off the dog, never to be seen again. So it may be challenging to diagnose flea bites. Fleas can not only transmit disease such as tapeworms, but can cause allergic reactions as many dogs and cats are allergic to the flea saliva. If this is the case, then it does not require too many flea bites to set off the allergic, very itchy skin reaction. The common symptoms are scratching, licking, chewing and biting. The affected areas on dogs and cats are different. Dogs are mostly affected on top of the hip, top of the tail, back of thighs and belly. Cats most commonly have crusty lesions around the head and neck. Ticks are more often seen on mountain pets than fleas, but again, not with the same degree of severity as in the Midwest, Northeast and parts of the Southeast, where Lyme disease is more prevalent. Lyme disease is a tick-transmitted illness that can also affect humans and causes recurrent acute arthritis that can progress to more serious conditions.Still, ticks do not cause the amount of disease in the valley as they do in other parts of the country. In tick infested regions, when a pet has many ticks feeding off of its blood, there can be severe symptoms: blood loss causing anemia, “tick paralysis” caused by toxins in the parasite’s salvia and local skin damage. You may have also heard about Rocky mountain spotted fever, babesiosis and other diseases caused by tick bites. Ticks are easier to find on shorter-haired dogs. Hunting breeds, of course, are at higher risk because they are more likely to be in environments harboring ticks.But do not panic when you find a tick, no matter how ugly they look. You can outrun them! As soon as you see a tick, remove it immediately to prevent toxins from being transmitted to your pet. Grasp ticks close to the skin with tweezers and gently pull free. Sometimes fragments of tick’s mouth will be embedded in the skin, therefore, wash the feeding site with soap and water and apply some Neosporin. This is usually enough to prevent secondary infection. Prevention has become the easiest way to avoid tick infestation. The products available are easy to apply and are very safe. The old fashion bathing and dipping as a means of control have been replaced. Find out if your pet needs protection and look over your pet after every hike. Dr Nadine Lober 949-7972

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