Fleas, ticks, and health risks
Endless sunny days and warm weather make summertime a favorite season to play outside with our families and pets. We spend a lot of time protecting them from the small dangers of the outdoors. We put sunscreen on to protect ourselves from the sun, use insect repellent to keep the mosquitoes away and keep cool water on hand to avoid overheating. But what about the pesky creatures Fido may bring in from your yard?
Fleas and ticks are pests we never want to see. Fleas can be a nightmare to get rid of and ticks can be difficult to find. These parasites are more than just a nuisance though, they can be a hazard to the health of our families and pets.
What are the health risks associated with ticks?
Ticks are most active in the warm months of the year, and can attach to any animal, including dogs, cats and humans. Ticks can be found anywhere on you or your pet’s body, and once they find a spot they like, the tick will burrow its head firmly into the skin. Since they’re very small, they can be difficult to locate on you or in your pet’s fur.
Ticks are second only to mosquitoes as vectors of human disease and transmit numerous diseases in North America. The most common include: Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. The most common of these is Lyme disease, and according to the CDC, there were more than 22,500 confirmed cases in 2010 alone. Lyme disease can cause fever, headache, fatigue and rash. If left untreated, it can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system. It is important to check for and remove any ticks that may have attached while outdoors to prevent these tick-borne diseases.
What about health risks associated with fleas?
Fleas are the most common external parasite found on pets. They’re tiny, wingless insects that can jump an average horizontal distance of 8 inches. Fleas drink the blood of their host to survive, and after each blood meal a female flea can lay up to 4-8 eggs, and up to 400-500 in its lifetime – one of the reasons fleas are so difficult to control.
Fleas can carry and transmit plague and murine typhus to humans. They can transmit cat scratch disease to cats, and cats can then transmit the disease to humans by biting or scratching hard enough to puncture the skin. Fleas also serve as an intermediate host for tapeworms, which can infect to your pets if they ingest an adult flea – usually while grooming themselves. Tapeworms can also spread to humans, while extremely uncommon, if an adult flea is ingested.
What can I do to protect my family & pets from fleas & ticks?
- Know where to expect fleas and ticks. Fleas live in shaded areas, under porches and in tall, uncut grass. Ticks live in tall brush or grass, wooded areas, or even low shrubbery, so any time spent outside could bring you or your pet in close contact with ticks.
- Use an insect repellent containing DEET. In addition to protecting you from mosquitoes, a repellent containing DEET will also protect you from ticks.
- Regularly treat pets with an oral or on-skin flea and tick preventative.
- Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may attach to your clothing before ultimately crawling to their preferred spot to find a blood meal. If you find any ticks, remove them and wash your clothing. Tumble dry clothes on high heat to kill ticks on dry clothing.
- Check yourself, your children and pets for ticks after returning from potential tick-infested areas. Make sure to check all parts of your body, not just the most common areas. Use a full-length or hand-held mirror to check hard to reach areas.
- Remove any attached ticks as soon as you notice them. Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out. Watch for any signs of sickness including rash or fever in the weeks following a tick bite.
- Keep grass cut and bushes trimmed off the ground to prevent damp, shady areas. Remove excess leaves and place wood chips between your lawn and any wooded areas.
- Vacuum and keep pet bedding washed regularly. If fleas do come inside, vacuum thoroughly daily (or weekly at minimum) to help suppress an infestation from growing indoors.
Protect your yard from mosquitoes
If fleas and ticks in your yard sounds like it might keep you from enjoying the rest of your summer, consider a professional pest control company. The most effective treatment products are usually on available to licensed professionals and multiple treatments are typically necessary to eradicate a flea infestation. Companies usually provide quarterly options to prevent common household pests. For a similar rate, a Cingo plan covers every single pest – from spiders and roaches to squirrels and even fleas.