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Understanding Bloodsuckers: Parasites 101

It’s that time of year…the bloodsuckers of all assortments are on the prowl…the IRS, fleas, Mosquitos, ticks…and folks are wondering just how this all works.

So first let’s start with the bad news, which is that every year, with less and less freezes, and freezes lasting too short a time to be very effective, fleas, ticks, oak mites, mosquitos and other nasties just get worse. Their seasons last longer and longer. The other bad news is that many of these buggers are developing a tolerance—and even outright immunity to the medicines being sold to prevent or treat them.

So what is a pet owner to do? Well, part of the solution lies in understanding the nature of each of these buggies. Let’s start with a commonality they all share: they dislike strongly scented hosts SO if a dog is wearing a collar with a dab of essential oil of patchouli or lavender on the outside of it (the part that does NOT touch his/her skin) or if a dog has been spritzed with any one of half a dozen or more natural preventative sprays (we use, sell and recommend Wondercide products that come in three great scents), most times, fleas, ticks, mosquitos and such will move along to a host that doesn’t smell so strongly offensive to the bugs.

Next, let’s talk about how environment is about 80 percent of any issue. What this means to you is that if you control environment and thus exposure, you remove 80% of the chance for infestation. So for example, we live on the edge of the woods where all manner of things that are the top carriers for fleas (feral cats, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, mice) wander through our yard as do their tick carrying deer compadres. And there is a creek, so this water source is a perfect mosquito breeding ground. We treat our yard weekly except in winter. We use Wondercide yard spray and then we dust under the deck and under and around all shrubberies (where ticks especially like to hang out) with food grade diatomaceous earth (this lovely stuff dissolves the exoskeletons of bugs and even pierces flea eggs BUT be certain it is food grade. The other ones generally have chemicals added which makes them toxic).

We do the same process to the yard at the shop. Every week. It requires a little time and diligence but it is safer and frankly more effective than spraying conventional chemical bug killers on the lawn. We follow this up by spritzing our dogs every other day or two with Wondercide spray, or if we plan to go to a dog event or dog park with them, we spritz them just prior. We bathe them every week or two as well, which allows us to keep a close eye on them.

If we go hiking, we do a tick check as soon as we get home. And nightly, we roll them over and do a quick critter check in all the spots fleas like to hide. I am happy to report that three years in of not using conventional flea meds, our dogs remain flea free at all times and Al has had only two tiny seed ticks which is amazing given the huge amounts of ticks we are finding on dogs coming in for grooming this year.

If you choose conventional flea medicines please, please, please only use ones sold through veterinarians offices…any other places (like your big box stores and corner pharmacy stores) do not necessarily control the temperature at which these chemicals are stored and temperature extremes can and do change the chemical make up which can result in everything from the medicine being ineffective to chemical burns to the death of your pet.

Not treating at all is simply not an option one should try. Whether you treat naturally or chemically, you should treat as all these nasties carry all manner of grossness and health concerns: ticks carry many diseases that range in treatability and permanent damage to your pet; fleas can cause horrible allergic dermatitis of the skin, hot spots, anemia, are the host for tapeworms and can cause death from anemia, especially in puppies, kittens and geriatric pets. These parasites literally suck, and this year especially may seem like bugpocalypse, but you can win the war!