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Vail Pets: Common parasites that can affect our pets

Nadine Lober
Pet Talk
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado — With warmer weather due for Colorado’s Vail Valley, insects and parasites can start appearing.

Unfortunately there are some nasty parasites that harm our pets. Fleas usually do not live comfortably at higher elevations and in our dry climate but nowadays it seems like anything goes.

I am always very surprised when I see one of my patients scratching due to fleas. There is not the degree of infestation as in warm coastal climates, such as California or Florida. There have been occasional fleas seen on dogs in Vail.



Fleas can infest cats as well as dogs. I have seen fleas on indoor cats too. 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. Sometimes the flea will bite the dog inject its saliva into the pet and then jump off the dog, never to be seen again. It may be challenging to diagnose flea bites but there are some very safe and effective flea control products on the market.

Fleas can transmit disease such as tapeworms, and can cause a hypersensitivity reaction to the skin. Many dogs and cats are allergic to the flea saliva and will get an itchy skin reaction. The symptoms are: scratching, licking, chewing and biting.



If fleas have become a problem with your pets, remember to treat your household as well. Do not use insecticide sprays and dips on dogs and cats less than three months of age, and read the directions on the labels before using a product. Fortunately these parasites can be controlled safely.

Ticks, on the other hand, have been seen in our mountainous region for longer, 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 disease that can also affect human. It causes recurrent acute arthritis that can progress to more severe conditions.

Ticks do not cause the amount of disease here in our valley that 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 saliva with toxins causing tick paralysis and local damage to skin at the site of the bite.



You may have heard about Rocky mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, Lyme disease, tick paralysis, and other diseases caused by tick bites. Ticks are easier to find on shorter-haired dogs, but can feed for a while to grow to a larger size. Hunting breeds, of course, are at higher risk because they are likely to come in contact with environments harboring ticks.

Do not panic when you find a tick, no matter how ugly they look. You can outrun them. As soon as you see one, remove it immediately to limit the time available for toxin transmission into your pet.

Grasp ticks close to the skin with tweezers and gently pull free. Sometimes fragments of mouth parts will be embedded in the skin. Do not light a match to the tick while on the dog. Wash the feeding site with soap and water and you can 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.

Veterinarian Nadine Lober can be reached at 970-949-7972


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