Those Pesky Summertime Pests
As you have undoubtedly noticed summer has arrived and so have the summertime pests. However, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes are not the only summertime pests that you need to worry about. There are many other parasites and pests out there. Waterborne parasites and bacterial infections seem to be the most common.
Now before you go an sterilize your environment and place yourself into a plastic bubble we insist that you remain calm and read on. Below we are going to mention some of the most common pests that you may encounter. Just remember that not all pests may infect or cause illness. Especially if your pet is very healthy.
This is probably one of the few pests that you will be unable to avoid not only in the summer but throughout the year. You could use all the flea preventative measures known and still end up with fleas. This does not mean that you should not use such preventatives. Fleas carry a number of other parasites which may cause illness in your pet.
When an animal becomes infested with fleas you may notice frequent and severe itching and scratching, hair loss, and scabs on your pet. The hind quarters of an animal tend to be affected more than the head or body.
Since fleas themselves are relatively harmless to an animal aside from the annoying itching and scratching they do carry other parasites which may affect your pet: These include:
- tapeworm infection (a parasite which finds an intermediate host in the flea)
- pruritis (intense itching with inflamed skin)
- and hypersensitivity.
- There is also plague, and in cats, Rickettsia felis, and Bartonella henselae.
The best way to check for fleas is with a flea comb. Frequent bathing and combing are essential components of any flea treatment program.
Ticks are attracted to warm blooded hosts and will wait for them to pass through fields, pastures, and brushy areas. They will also attach themselves to humans as well as pets. When an animal has ticks they can be felt as small lumps through their fur. If you part the fur around these lumps you will see them with their heads embedded into the skin of your pet.
Some side effects which are prevalent when you pet has ticks includes blood loss anemia, hypersensitivity, pruritis, and damage to the lymphatic, immune, and nervous systems. Some of the more serious diseases that ticks can transmit are the Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis.
You should always inspect your pet after walking so that you can remove any ticks before they embed their heads into the animal. And make sure to become familiar with the proper technique before doing it. You don't want to end up with a worse situation because of improper removal.
Mosquitos are real pesky pests whose bite causes itchy lumps on pets and people. Irritable as they are, the itchy lumps are the least of your problems. There are some serious and life-threatening diseases to be aware of. Heartworm, a roundworm that can infect both cats and dogs, is a silent killer that can be easily treated if caught in time. Two mosquito-borne diseases that affect both humans and domestic animals are the Saint Louis Encephalitis (SLE), which attacks the brain, and the West Nile Virus (WNV).
These pests are really annoying to pets. They cause irritation and itching around the anus which is why pets sometimes rub their anus across the floor. Tapeworm species can include Taenia, Dipylidium Caninum, Echinococcus, and Mesocestoides. Tapeworms are usually picked up through fleas, when an animal ingests an infected flea, and when animals ingest smaller wild animals that are infected, such as rabbits, birds or rodents.
If you see your pet doing this sort of activity with its hind end check the stools for signs of worms. These can be really hard to see as these worms tend to break into pieces. Regardless of whether you actually see worm segments or not you will need a fecal examination done by your veterinarian to positively identify the worm. Treatment to destroy tapeworms is critical to avoid transmission to humans (typically children) and to avert damage to your pet's body.
The Botfly, also called the Cuterebra, can be found in grass and will latch onto warm blooded animals that pass through the grass.
If an animal has a botfly embedded in its skin they may show signs of infection such as seizures, aggression, blindness, and warbles (or lumps) in the skin where the botfly has taken up residence. In cats, the cuterebra larva typically travels to the brain.
Sarcoptes Scabiei Mite
This parasite is one of the most troublesome for your pet. Most prevalent in the summer months, the condition caused by this mite, also referred to as scabies or mange, is more of a nuisance than a danger. Unless there are open sores because it opens the body to severe bacterial infections.
The most common risk of exposure comes from contact with other animals and outdoor activities. Treatment is the same as treating for fleas, but more aggressive, with quarantining, and thorough baths.
Aquatic and Fungal Parasites
Grassy areas and brush are not the only places where animals can pick up parasites. Pets that swim in ponds, rivers, and lakes are also at risk. For instance, one type of waterborne parasite, the Heterobilharzia americanum, a flatworm, uses water snails as their intermediate hosts until they are big enough to go out in search of a larger, warmer blooded host. Symptoms can range from relatively mild, like diarrhea and itching, to severe organ and intestinal damage. Another type of parasitic bacteria that is picked up in wet, subtropical areas is the Leptospira interrogans, a corkscrew shaped bacteria that burrows into the skin and spreads through the bloodstream.
In drier areas of the globe, the Coccidioides immitis is the culprit for a host of nasty conditions. Fungal spores that behave like parasites, they are spread when the dirt they live in is disturbed by rain or digging, and the wind picks them up to disperse them. They are then inhaled or ingested. Diseases that result from this infection include San Joaquin Valley Fever, California Fever, cocci, and desert fever. And last, but not even close to least, is the Aspergillus mold, an opportunistic mold that grows in grass clippings and dust. Like the cocci fungus, it also enters through the nasal passages.
I hope that this has given you some insight as to the types of parasites that are out there risking your pet's, as well as your own, health. Just remember that a little vigilance and planning can go a long way into protecting you and your pet. So go out there and have a great vacation with your family and pets.