Vets see rise in fleas, ticks with warm, wet weather

UPDATE on Ruby's fleas: Angela reports they have found more dead fleas but, alas, also found a live flea, so they are redoubling their efforts, continuing with veterinarian recommended treatment pills that target adult fleas and spraying. On the advice of Blue Dog, a local pet store, they have started using Vet's Best peppermint oil spray for pets. Blue Dog sold out of the carpet-specific spray so they will use the pet spray on Ruby and the rugs. Local pet stores around Harrisburg report a run on flea treatments that has left store shelves bare and distributors scrambling to resupply stores.



My colleague Angela asked me the other day if my pets had ever had fleas. Oh indeed, I said, what pet owner hasn't seen them crawling through a forest of fur. Been bitten by them. Chased a stray bugger around their pet's coat with their fingernails?

Not Angela. Until now. Seems her black Lab Ruby picked up fleas on their daily walks along the Susquehanna River in downtown Harrisburg. Ruby got them big time. A quick hit with a topical flea treatment seemed to do nothing. Vacuuming, powders, baths. Nada.

Finally, Angela's husband Marc sent his wife and their two young children away while he fumigated the house.

When they returned they found flea carcasses scattered about their townhouse floor. Problem solved? Yes, for now, anyway.

Angela wasn't the only one on her downtown Harrisburg block with a flea problem. Pet-owning neighbors were battling their own infestations. One case required an exterminator.

My vet at the wonderful Boiling Springs Animal Hospital confirmed the Great Flea Scourge of 2011 while treating one of our cats for an unrelated condition.

She said the flea infestation this fall is among the worst she has seen.

But wait there's more.

A friend in New Jersey reports she can't take her puppy out for a quick walk in her wooded yard without little Emmy returning with a tick or two, even with a topical anti-flea/tick treatment applied.

So it's time to be vigilant pet people, the flea and tick season is still with us.  

Veterinarians say record rainfall in Pennsylvania and New Jersey has brought more than just a lot of mud.

Pet owners and veterinarians are seeing a sudden surge allergies, skin conditions and problem insects.

The Center for Animal Referral and Emergency Services (CARES) in Langhorne, says the change in weather plus the rain has brought on:

-Allergies. Many animals are reacting to all the mold spores and pollen in the air and grass growth. Chronic allergies are resurfacing in some animals and other ones are having allergies for the first time.

-Contagious parasites. Scabies are showing up in many dogs causing severe itching, skin rash and hair loss. These mites are carried by foxes and transmitted from dog to dog. They are microscopic and live on the dog's skin.

-Fleas/ticks—Fleas and ticks are at the height of activity in fall and spring but the season is more severe this year due to all the rain and high humidity.

Dr. Noel Radwanski, a veterinary dermatologist with CARES, says pet owners should look for the following symptoms of some of these weather and seasonal conditions:

-Head Shaking

-Paw Licking

-Skin rash

-Constant scratching/itchy skin

Radwanski urges pet owners to see their veterinarian to address those issue. She also offers these tips:

At home tips for dogs/ cats with mold allergies:

1. Use HEPA filters in the home to decrease mold spore exposure. Individual room HEPA filters are more effective, especially in the areas of the house the pet spends to the most amount of their time.

2. Have pet avoid areas of the house which may be higher in moisture and humidity including the basement, laundry room, garage.

3. Rinsing dogs after they swim in ponds, rivers or lakes that may contain high algae.

At home tips for dogs/cats with flea allergy:

1. Apply prescribed flea preventative to all animals in the house.

2. The key to controlling fleas is breaking the life cycle by not only killing the adult fleas but also the eggs and juvenile fleas.

3. The adult fleas lay eggs while on the pet which fall off into the environment. The eggs can stay in the environment for several weeks to months depending on the conditions. Vibrations from vacuuming will help encourage the eggs to hatch. When the fleas get back onto the animals they will die after ingesting the flea preventative on the dog.

At home instructions for dogs with scabies:

1. Scabies are a mite that can cause severe itching. They are typically carried by foxes and are contagious to dogs. Therefore, all dogs in the home should be treated.

2. Scabies do not live long in the environment off the dogs. Therefore, daily washing of bedding and vacuuming can help control any environmental contamination.

3. Scabies are species specific. Therefore they can’t live on the skin of humans. However, if a mites bites a person they may develop a hypersensitivity to the bite and develop a red, raised, itchy rash.

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