Why heartworm, flea and tick control is so important – in virtually every season!
As the temperature rises and we start to spend more time outdoors, the other side of spring begins to rear its not-so-pleasant head – heartworm-carrying mosquitoes, blood-sucking ticks and fleas that nibble away. As much as we enjoy our cats and dogs, these little critters like them just as much.
Animated movies can make them seem cute, cuddly and cheerful, but in reality, these pests pose a significant risk to the health and well-being of your pets.
Dr. Troye McPherson, a veterinarian in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and council member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, believes that flea and tick control and being proactive is crucial in the prevention of the many diseases that these critters can carry.
“Flea control can be important year-round in some areas of the country,” says McPherson. “One way to search for pests is to look for little black particles that resemble pepper, particularly on the back, near the tail. If you wet your finger and run it over the particle, you’ll likely see blood, which can indicate the presence of fleas.”
Ticks however, are a different story.
That furry coat your tail-wagging chum needs to protect him from the elements is particularly attractive to ticks. “Ticks have a bloom when they come to life in the spring and another bloom in the fall,” advises McPherson. “If you find a tick on your dog or cat, rub a little petroleum jelly on it, which will suffocate it. Then, use tweezers to grab it by the head as close to the skin as possible and pull it out in one swift motion, making sure the head isn’t left behind. Don’t feel bad about this minor discomfort, as this method is not only more effective, it’s also less painful to your pet than slowly ‘edging’ the tick out of your pet’s skin.”
Dan Dawson, spokesperson for Orkin Canada, a pest control company, echoes that advice. He says that by regularly bathing your pets with appropriate shampoos and by monitoring them for scratching, licking or a change in behaviour, you can often spot the first signs of infestation. “Pests can vary from province to province, and even within a province. While warm and moist climates provide ideal conditions for pests, fleas and ticks can be found on pets from coast to coast.”
While no one wants to think about the idea of our dogs and cats being preyed upon by parasites, it’s important to remain vigilant because of the potential dangers they pose to our furry friends.
“For pets, fleas cause more than just constant scratching; they can transfer tapeworms and cause very uncomfortable skin conditions. Some species of ticks are also carriers of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can cause serious illness in dogs.” They can hitchhike on pets into the home, causing a larger infestation and increased risk to people. “The risk with mosquitoes is that during the warmer months, they can transmit heartworm disease, which can be life-threatening, especially to dogs,” says Dawson.
Dawson counsels, “Managing pests is all about taking proactive steps to limit their risks and presence. This includes implementing a pest-management approach that focuses on property maintenance.” Research has shown that ticks generally do not infest properties or wildlife areas that are well maintained. So, to help control tick populations around your home, try to keep shrubs, grass and other vegetation in your yard trimmed, especially along the edges of your property.
“If you’re not sure of the risks of these pests in your area, or how to protect your pets, your best bet is always to ask your veterinarian,” suggests Dr. Chip Coombs, Chief Veterinary Officer at Pets Plus Us. “There are a variety of excellent preventive medications available from your veterinarian that are safe and very effective. Your veterinarian knows your lifestyle and your pets, and can tailor a preventive program for you that will essentially eliminate the risks these pests can pose.”
In case of illness, consider pet health insurance for your pet from Pets Plus Us.