Our furry, fuzzy friends carry uninvited guests
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By Mickey Zeldes  May 2, 2014 12:00 am

Nothing like a bit of rain and some warm weather to wake things up.  Not only are flowers and trees blooming, fleas and ticks have all come to life again in a big way.

The ticks, so far this year, have been the worst we’ve ever seen, and we’ve seen some pretty heavy flea-infested strays come in recently.  These poor animals suffer terribly from the itching and other side affects of having these parasites.

We’ve already paid to have our dog fields sprayed for ticks, but as the company reminded us – it’s not a foolproof method of eliminating these pests.  All it would take is a stray cat or opossum with some of these uninvited guests to cut across our fields, and once again we would be infested.  Spraying does help reduce ticks, though, and using repellent on the dogs helps to reduce the number they carry.

Not only are ticks and fleas bad for the animal because they suck their blood and therefore can cause anemia (we once got in a two-week-old kitten with close to 200 fleas. The poor thing was totally pale from lack of blood), but for the other problems they bring.  Many animals become allergic to the saliva injected into their bloodstream when a flea bites.  Just one bite and their whole body can become inflamed and itchy.  We’ve all seen dogs missing half their fur and covered with scabs.

If you’ve ever been kept awake all night by a dog incessantly chewing and scratching, you know the misery that is caused by Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD).  Once a dog is in full body reaction, you almost always have to resort to steroids as well as antibiotics to calm down the inflammation.  In addition, fleas are the hosts to tapeworms.  So with every infestation you have to be on the lookout for signs of this pesky internal parasite.  Often, the signs of tapeworm can be seen with the naked eye – look for tapeworm segments which look like dried (or sometimes still moving) pieces of rice in the feces or caught in the fur around the anus.  If you see them, get medication from your veterinarian to treat your pet.

If you find a tick on your pet, do not try to burn it off or smother it with Vaseline (two very outdated methods to remove them).  It’s also not necessary to twist one way or the other – in fact twisting them often leaves the head imbedded, which can cause an infection.  The very best way to remove a tick is with a tick remover (duh!).  If you don’t have one of these handy gadgets, use a tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the head as possible and gently pull straight out.  Be sure to wash the hole left behind thoroughly and apply some antibiotic ointment.

Ticks carry diseases that are transmissible to both dogs and humans such as Lymes disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.  The good news is that the tick has to be imbedded for 12 or more hours to transmit the disease, so quickly removing any ticks after a hike is one way to avoid contamination.  After every hike it is important to thoroughly look over you and your pet.  There are also tick repellants that can be applied before heading out.

There are now so many flea and tick products out that it would be a column on its own.  Just know that preventing these pests is much easier than solving the problems they leave behind.  Your itchy pets will attest to that.


Upcoming events 

• Amnesty Week for animal licenses (May 4-11): All late fees will be waived in an effort to help as many delinquent pets become legal.  Stop by this week only for this great deal. Rabies vaccines for $6  will be available at a VIP Vet Services vaccination clinic at the shelter on Wednesday, May 7, from 4:30-6:30 p.m.  No appointment is necessary.  Free microchips are available all week, too.


Summer Camp: Registration is now open for our popular Kidz ‘n Critter summer camp program.  We are offering seven one-week sessions of fun for kids in grades 2-7.  Check out the complete schedule and download an application at www.rpanimalshelter.org or stop by the shelter to pick one up.


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at mzeldes@rpcity.org.


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