iStock_000000295959_LargeAs we begin to experience spring here in Davenport, we also must contend with the usual suspects of spring discomfort: fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks. Couple the warm, humid weather with some time on a lake or near the river, and voila, the biting commences. No wonder flea, tick, and heartworm prevention is a hot topic among pet owners.

Unfortunately, these parasites bring more than just discomfort. Vector-borne diseases can cause serious illness in your pet as well as health risks to the family. These illnesses can include:

  • Tapeworm
  • Bartonella
  • Lyme disease
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • West Nile virus
  • Plague (yes, The plague)
  • Keeping Fleas and Ticks at Bay

    Before diving into at-home tips for reducing your pet’s exposure to parasites, it is important to remember that the most effective method of reducing the risk of vector-borne diseases is through vaccinations and parasite preventives. These preventive measures are essential in keeping flea- and tick-transmitted illnesses from entering the home, and we encourage you to maintain your pet’s wellness examinations and vaccine/preventive protocols.

    Other methods for reducing flea and tick populations in and around your home include:

  • When returning from a hike or time spent outdoors, carefully inspect yourself and your dog for rogue travelers, such as ticks
  • Remove weeds, tall grasses, and overgrown areas from the yard
  • Keep your pets well-groomed and check their skin and coats weekly for signs of flea infection, such as red or raw skin and flea droppings
  • Vacuum carpets and upholstery regularly and wash all pet beds and blankets on a weekly basis
  • Although we cannot attest to how effective these devices are, some pet owners swear by electric flea traps
  • It’s also important to remember that wellness exams include screenings for the presence of heartworm and internal parasites, which is the safest method to ensuring your pet’s health.

    Heartworm Prevention

    Heartworm disease can bring heartbreak for many pet owners, as treatment is both risky and expensive for dogs, and non-existent for cats. Transmitted through a mosquito bite, heartworms compromise the heart, lungs, and blood vessels and can result in lasting damage to the organs or sudden death.

    In dogs, symptoms can include fatigue, persistent cough, and loss of appetite. And, while heartworm is more prevalent in canines, we are now seeing many more cases of feline heartworm disease, particularly in animal shelters.

    Fortunately, the disease is preventable through the use of a year-round preventive. Please call us to have your pet screened for heartworm and to start a preventive to help safeguard him or her from this potentially life-threatening disease.

    Some methods you can use to prevent mosquitos around the yard and home include:

  • Empty bird baths and other sources of standing water
  • Reinforce or repair all window and door screens that are loose or torn
  • Evenings and mornings seem to be high times for mosquitos, so wait until those more humid points in the day have passed before hanging outdoors with your pet
  • Bats are wonderful mosquito deterrents, so consider encouraging bats to feed on the mosquitos in your yard by installing bat boxes (really!)
  • Lavender and citronella candles also repel mosquitos (just be sure to keep the candles out of your dog’s reach)
  • Spring has sprung and the bugs are out! But, with a few simple steps and preventive veterinary care for your pet, you and your best friend can enjoy the spring and summer bite-free.