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Flea & Ticks: Pet Pests or Disease Vectors? – Dr. LeeAnn DuMars, ABVP

Although we have a multitude of excellent flea and tick products available for our pets, we are still seeing persistent flea infestations and balooning tick populations. Is this due to resistance to our products, lack of compliance or other factors? Both people and pets have more extensive travel habits than in years past, urbanization and deforestation have resulted in wildlife encroachment, and many owners fail to comply with recommended guidelines for use of parasite preventatives in dogs and cats. Vector-borne infectious diseases have been identified more frequently in both humans and domestic animals in recent years and represent some of the most important emerging infectious diseases. Some of this is due to spreading tick and flea populations across the country and some of it is due to our newer molecular technology to more easily diagnose these diseases. How can you minimize the impact as a pet owner? One easy solution is to keep pets on monthly parasite protection.

The vectors most commonly involved in infectious disease are arthropods – fleas, ticks, sandflies, other biting flies and mosquitoes. Infectious diseases that may be transmitted to dogs and cats via a vector include viral, bacterial and protozoal diseases. Infectious diseases include Lyme Disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, babesiosis, hepatozoonosis, plaque, tularemia, leishmaniasis, bartonellosis, and hemoplasmosis. Infact, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recently predicted that incidence of lyme disease will be extremely high this year Dogs and cats can serve as sentinels for human exposure to vector-borne diseases, but in the majority of cases, our pets do not directly transmit these infections to people. Bartonella, plaque and tularemia can be directly transmitted from pets. Plaque is spread to humans by cats and rodent fleas and can prove fatal to humans. Tularemia is transmitted to humans by ticks. Most infectious disease transmission to people are from ticks, fleas and mosquitoes directly.


Because fleas and ticks are so problematic, our blog this month will be a continuation blog that has two additional parts, No Fleas Please and Ticks: Prehistoric Fortress & Disease Transmitting Machine! Please click through to learn more about relentless fleas and ticks in your environment.