With the return of warm weather, everyone wants to spend more time outdoors—including household pets such as dogs and cats. Like people, pets are also at risk for the serious health complications that can arise from tick and flea bites. Pet owners need to take the necessary precautions to protect their pets this spring.
Fleas and Ticks in Tennessee
Blacklegged deer ticks are known for spreading Lyme disease to people, but pets are also susceptible to this serious disease, along with American dog tick-vectored Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Pet owners in East Tennessee should be especially vigilant against American dog tick, the brown dog tick, and the lone star tick which are most likely to affect area dogs and cats.
Pets sickened with Lyme disease may suffer from fever, decreased appetite, painful joints, limping and lethargy. In severe cases, kidney disease can also occur. American dog ticks are larger than black-legged deer ticks and can cause tick paralysis when a female dog tick attaches near a pet’s spinal cord. Tick paralysis can lead to muscle weakness, loss of coordination and, in some cases, death from respiratory failure.
Fleas are another common pet pest that can cause serious health complications. The itchy red bumps left by fleas can lead to excessive scratching, anemia, dermatitis, and tapeworms. Fleas can also become a problem when pets bring them inside the home. Once there, they can reproduce in bedding, carpets or furniture.
The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recommends these tips for protecting pets from ticks and fleas:
- Check pets frequently for ticks and fleas. Be aware of excessive scratching and licking.
- Avoid walking dogs in tall grass, where fleas and ticks often hide.
- Bathe pets after walks or playtime with other animals.
- Frequently wash pet bedding, collars, and plush toys.
- Wash bed linens and vacuum carpets, floors, and furniture frequently.