As seasons change, a new slew of pesky pests may be on the horizon. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, more than 34 percent of dogs nationwide are infected with gastrointestinal parasites. The number of pets infected with external parasites, such as fleas, ticks and bed bugs, is significantly higher. Animals make prime targets for these troublesome parasites, as warm hosts are the ideal living environment. Your pet’s sweat, blood and skin cells become a three-course meal, while its furry coat offers warmth and protection. Protect your four-legged companion from problem pests by using preventive measures.
Dogs and cats become infested with fleas through contact with infected animals or with fleas in their environment. While fleas cannot fly, they do have strong legs that allow them to jump from host to host with ease. There are more than 2,000 species and subspecies of fleas that thrive in warm, humid environments. These external pests can often be seen scurrying across your pet’s skin. They appear as pinhead-sized, dark copper-colored insects that reside in furry areas. Pet parents can eliminate fleas and flea eggs and break the life cycle with over-the-counter or prescription medication. Treatment can be given year-round to keep pets flea-free.
Fido may look healthy on the outside, but his insides could be suffering from the effects of internal worms. Cats and dogs with internal worms may not show any symptoms right away but could eventually experience weight loss, dry fur, increased appetite, weakness and diarrhea as the infection worsens. Occasionally, the worms may appear in the pet’s vomit or feces. Heartworm is one of the most common and most preventable types of internal worm that can be avoided with heartworm medication. According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworms can infect more than 30 different species of animals and can be deadly if left untreated. Disinfect your pet’s food and water bowls regularly, and maintain an effective worm control program to keep pets protected from worms from an early age.
Approximately 99.6 percent of U.S.-based pest management professionals have encountered bed bug infestations in the past year, according to the National Pest Management Association. Bed bugs are not created in filthy environments as believed by some, but are carried into homes on luggage or other possessions — often from hotels or other homes. While bed bugs prefer human hosts, they may choose your pet as their next meal. Bed bugs do not live on people or pets but can bite. If you think you may have these miniscule creatures living in your home, you can learn more about bed bugs at Orkin.com or a similar service. There are a number of treatment options available, ranging from “bug bombs” to professional pest management services.
There are more than 650 species of hard ticks, PetMD says. These eight-legged pests have mouth parts that attach to their warm host animal until they are engorged with blood. Ticks are not insects, but arachnids, like spiders and mites. They are most active during late spring and throughout the summer season and reside in tall grass or brush before attaching to outdoor cats and dogs. If you spot a tick on your pet, it can be removed by treating the area with rubbing alcohol and plucking it from the skin with a pair of tweezers. Use caution, as contact with the tick’s blood to yourself or your pet can cause a potential infection. To reduce the risk of ticks, pets that live in areas with a high tick population can use topical treatments to ward off these mini moochers.