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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Area veterinarians seeing more ticks, fleas following mild winter, wet spring

  • It’s not uncommon for pet owners of dogs and cats to experience issues with preventing or warding off fleas and ticks each spring, but this season, problems have started earlier and area veterinarians say ticks are especially bad, likely because of the mild winter and early onset of warm spring temperatures.


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  • It’s not uncommon for pet owners of dogs and cats to experience issues with preventing or warding off fleas and ticks each spring, but this season, problems have started earlier and area veterinarians say ticks are especially bad, likely because of the mild winter and early onset of warm spring temperatures.
    Dr. Bob Evans of Tecumseh Veterinary Clinic said the mild weather does start the cycle much earlier.
    “We’re already seeing now what we normally see in May — lots of ticks,” Evans said. “Ticks are out in full force right now.” And they are flourishing with the warm, moist environment.
    “Fleas and ticks don’t read what month in on the calender, they just know temperature,” he said. “The tick’s whole life is about jumping on your pet — there can be hundreds.”
    Evans said ticks can cause illnesses and a bad tick infestation can even kill a pet.
    “We lose dogs every year,” he said.
    Dr. Joel Wilson from Town and Country Veterinary Clinic in Shawnee said during last year’s hot and dry summer, the one advantage was the fleas and ticks weren’t bad. But this year is definitely another story.
    “Fleas like hot and humid weather and ticks like moisture,” Wilson said, adding we’re getting “twice the payback” this year. While ticks are worse in timber areas, fleas thrive in hot and shady areas, he said, so any treatments done should go past the yard and into flower beds, especially under decks.
    Dr. Sammy Williams at McLoud Animal Hospital said last year’s dry, hot summer was probably the best deterrent for parasite problems.
    “It was so dry, so hot,” Williams said, so it was an uncharacteristic year.
    “This year is bad — we’re already seeing dogs with lots of ticks,” Williams said.
    Flea problems usually begin in spring and continue into summer, then start back up in the fall. Fleas have a 21-day life cycle from egg to adult, so “two fleas can become 2,000” in a couple of weeks, Williams said.
    Dr. Natalie Keith of Northside Veterinary Clinic in Shawnee said ticks are the worst problem right now and have been since January.
    “We’ve had a nice, wet spring and they love it – they love warm, wet weather,” Keith said. “Every week it will get worse.”
    Pet owners should immediately pull any ticks on their pets, she said, as the longer they are attached, the higher the chances of them transmitting diseases. Keith said the key is prevention and finding the right choices for keeping ticks off pets and treating the yard environment.
    While there are a variety of flea products, not all of them treat ticks, but usually anything that treats ticks will also treat fleas, she said. Top spot products and oral products are often effective, she added.
    Page 2 of 2 - Keith advises pet owners to be cautious of some over-the-counter products which can be harsh pesticides, and she said it’s especially important for proper usage of products as some labeled for dogs can be fatal if they are used on cats.
    While it’s important to treat the pet, treating the environment is necessary, and it will help to keep grass cut short. As it gets warmer, keeping a three-foot barrier of mulch or gravel around a yard can help “keep other people’s tick problems from becoming your tick problem,” Keith said, as the ticks have problems surviving when crossing such barriers.
    Wilson, who agreed there are many types of topical preventatives and treatment products useful for pets, said each scenario can be different for treating the surroundings.
    “What may work at your house may not work at my house,” Wilson said, adding that in some cases, exterminators are needed.
    And while the recent rains were much needed after last year’s drought, “the downside will be more mosquitoes, fleas and ticks,” Wilson added.
    And since fleas can be dormant for up to three years, he said it’s best not to wait until there is a problem to take action.
    Williams said he often devises different treatment plans for each pet, as circumstances are different for pets who are mostly inside versus outside, to those who are porch dogs or those who live in wooded areas with ponds, for example.
    Long-acting, usually applied monthly topical treatments to fast-acting sprays can help, Williams said, although different products absorb in different ways — some stay in the oils on the skin and others absorb into the blood stream of the pet.
    Reading directions and knowing products is important, he said, but keeping pets pest-free and healthy is important for the pets as well as pet owners. Tick diseases, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, are something all of these veterinarians are worried about.
    Shawnee Animal Control officers also have tips for area residents this flea and tick season:
    •  Keep lawns cut and manicured.  
    •  Preventative treatments on lawns like granules can help prevent the insects from infesting the lawn.
    • Pet owners also can purchase drops that can be applied directly to the animal; there are also the flea collars.
    • Keep pets bathed periodically.
    • If needed, there are companies that will spray yards, and if there is an infestation in a home, there are products that can be set off in your home, or a licensed exterminator can help.
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