A lack of frigid weather may make for an itchy spring for Carter County pets.
Dr. Cade Wilson, a veterinarian at Carter County Animal Hospital, said fleas in particular pose a problem that is a constant one for the area, due to the climate.
“We just don’t live in a cold enough climate to literally have all the fleas go dormant,” Wilson said. “We just have too many days that pop up above 50 degrees.”
Fifty degrees, he said, is the rule of thumb. Once temperatures rise any higher, fleas come back.
“I think the average person thinks there’s more of a seasonality to it,” Wilson said. “Others who’ve had pets long enough know, wow, we’re always at risk.”
Location makes a difference too. Someone who lives in a neighborhood, close to other homes and yards, may be more at risk for certain kinds of pests if their neighbors don’t stay vigilant.
“It’s where you live and what threats you have around you, so to speak,” Wilson said. “I think a lot of it is what the parasite load is right where you live.”
Wilson said, at one point, he lived in a neighborhood with a high population of feral cats. Fleas became more of a concern for him.
“We always had fleas, it didn’t matter,” Wilson said. “You’d do your best with whatever preventative you’d use, but if you went off of it, you’d have fleas.”
Fleas can lead to other parasites, like diplylidium tapeworms, a
specific kind of tapeworm cats can get from biting at fleas while grooming and swallowing them.
“The flea is the intermediate host of that parasite,” Wilson said. “That’s the number one parasite we see because of fleas.”
Tania and Echinococcus tapeworms, on the other hand, are more likely to come from rodents than other animals.
“This time of year, mice are coming into your house to try to stay warm,” Wilson said. “Or they’re just coming closer.”
Cat Scratch Fever, which comes from flea feces under a cat’s claws, is transferrable to pet owners.
“That is a real thing,” Wilson said.
In other cases, pets are allergic to fleas. Those pets can develop skin issues.
Hookworms and roundworms can show up in cats and dogs, and both can be transmitted to people.
“In a lot of cases, especially with dogs, preventatives are monthly things,” Wilson said. “Heart worm preventatives almost always have hook and roundworm preventative as well.”
Ticks can be more prominent in the winter, they’re less of a threat in urban areas, but they can still show up in unexpected ways.
“Let’s say a person’s neighbor is a big duck hunter,” Wilson said. “They’ve got a dog they take hunting and they live right next door to you. They could bring you some ticks.”