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Pet Parasite Problems: Are They Worse Than Ever?

Problems from parasides and the diseases they carry may be worse, but a little bit of prevention can solve most problems.
If it seems like parasitic and disease-related threats to pets are increasing, you’re probably right.

While issues like Lyme disease and West Nile virus are real, their danger to most pets should be kept in perspective. West Nile, for instance, is rarely fatal for cats and dogs. Lyme disease can cause serious issues, but the instance of major symptoms seems to be less than it is with humans.

But the potential health threats from these and other parasitic and disease related threats are serious enough to keep in mind. One thing they have in common, and a strategic point for prevention, is how and where they are most likely to be contracted. In almost all cases, these and other potential problems are found outdoors and often in fairly specific locations: tall grass (for ticks carrying Lyme disease), near stagnant water (for mosquitoes) and in heavy woods (for all of the above).

Again, the solution is not to completely change your plans and avoid these places. Telling a Labrador to stay away from water or a cat to stay out of the woods and grass is not a good plan. But learning to inspect them, apply preventative measures and generally be alert to the potential dangers is just smart.

Although most of these problems are associated with warmer weather for good reason, many of them can occur year round. Even one day of warm winter weather can bring out a few hardy ticks or mosquitoes, for example.

But the warmest months usually contain the biggest threats. Fleas especially seem to reach their worst levels in the hottest months. And fleas are more than just an irritating nuisance. Their saliva can also cause conditions such as anemia and flea allergy dermatitis. The can also transfer tapeworms.

Prevention is the best idea for avoiding these dangers. Be observant and don’t hesitate to take action if you observe telltale signs like excessive scratching or you know your pets been in areas like tall grass, brushy areas or anywhere there’s a bigger chance for fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

If you have reason to be concerned, the first line of defense falls under the heading of cleanliness. Start by checking pets after they’ve been outside, especially if they’ve been in pest-prone areas. A bath or treatment may be in order, especially if you’ve been in a “high risk” area.

It’s also a good idea to wash pet bedding, collars or toys (especially toys with cloth or “fur” that could harbor pests). You may also need to wash your family’s bed linens and vacuum any carpets, floors and furniture. And don’t forget to empty vacuum bags in an outside receptacle so your “visitors” don’t just hop back inside the house. In the worst cases, contact a licensed pest professional.