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Protect Your Pets from Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitoes This Summer

Significant spike in pet-related pest activity could lead to disease in family pets.

Orkin, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rollins Inc. (NYSE: ROL), warns pet owners to check their four-legged friends for fleas, ticks and mosquito bites. Pets will spend more time outdoors in the coming months, and pests can pose health risks to pets as well as to their owners. Orkin reports that consumer inquiries for fleas and ticks have more than doubled nationally compared to this time last year.

Mosquito inquiries have also begun to rise.

“Ticks are active much earlier this year compared to last year,” said entomologist Ron Harrison, Ph.D. and Orkin technical services director. “I don’t know that we’re necessarily seeing any more ticks than in previous years, but because of the mild winter, we are seeing them earlier than normal. The flea increase could be due to any number of reasons. Some studies have shown they are becoming resistant to on-pet treatment methods; it could also be because fleas are associated with rodents and other wildlife, which did not die off this year, thanks to the mild temperatures. Another reason could be the changing treatment methods. Before, pet owners had to take their pets to their veterinarians for flea treatment, but now over-the-counter products leave more room for pet owners to make improper applications.”

“Fleas don’t transmit any serious diseases, but they are the only source of tapeworm,” said entomologist and University of Georgia professor Nancy C. Hinkle, Ph.D. “An infected flea can pass on tapeworm if a dog or cat happens to swallow a flea while using its teeth to scratch, but the tapeworm is not transmitted if the flea only bites the dog. Some animals are also highly sensitive to flea saliva, which can lead to secondary infections and dermatitis from incessant itching.”

Fleas commonly attach themselves to dogs and cats, but they can also be found on chickens, rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice and other domesticated or wild animals. “Flea infestations require several treatment plans at once,” said Harrison. “Addressing only a pet’s infestation or individual flea bites will not rid your home of fleas. Your pet’s treatment must be done at the same time your pest control professional treats your home, but be sure to consult a veterinarian before starting any flea treatment.”

In addition to fleas, ticks are also a health concern to pets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs and cats can get Lyme disease, but there is no evidence that the animals spread the disease directly to their owners. Pets can also carry infected ticks into homes or yards, where they can then bite humans.

Heartworm disease is a much more serious pet disease, which is spread by mosquitoes. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, heartworm disease is potentially fatal for dogs and cats and is especially prevalent along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and along the Mississippi River. Heartworms are spread by mosquito bites.

The AVMA says that after a mosquito bites a dog or cat, the heartworm larvae get into the bloodstream and eventually make their way to the heart. Harrison warns that animal owners need to be especially vigilant this summer. “Because it did not get as cool this winter, the mosquitoes could have started laying their eggs earlier, which could give us an extra generation of mosquitoes this year.”

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