2012-03-30 / Columnists

The Veterinary Corner

Fleas, Ticks And Heartworm
Commentary By Jay Rogoff And Allan Simon, DVM

This year’s exceptionally warm winter and warmer early spring temperatures mean that in our area we will be faced with pests, like ticks and mosquitoes, in much greater numbers this year.

Some species of mosquito over-winter in their adult stage, and it is warm weather that can drive them out of their so-called hibernaculi, or place of hibernation during the winter months. The aggressive Asian Tiger mosquito, known as an “invasive species” here, may be a big problem because cold weather during the winter destroys a lot of Asian Tiger eggs. If that’s not happening now, these big biters may be around in a significant force later.

Public health entomologists say that because of the early warm weather and the very mild winter, the populations will advance considerably sooner this year. The unseasonable warm weather has given them a head start.

We suggest that residents start preparing for mosquito season now before they are caught off guard by an early swarm. Homeowners should trim overgrown lawns and clear foliage away from sidewalks, walking trails and other areas that families use frequently.

You should make sure that your pets are properly protected as well. Fleas, ticks and heartworm are a problem in our area. We treated the first case of canine heartworm the first month we opened the Animal Hospital of the Rockaways, 35 years ago. Today we recommend preventative but not all animals are protected and each year we discover numerous new life-threatening cases.

Heartworm is a parasitic roundworm that is spread from host to host through mosquito bites. The heartworm is a type of filaria, a small thread-like worm. It is common in dogs and cats. The adult parasite actually resides in the pulmonary arterial system (lung arteries) and the heart, and the primary effect on the health of the animal is a manifestation of damage to the lung vessels and tissue. This is a very serious disease and can be fatal.

Ticks can cause Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and erlichiosis. These are all very serious diseases. It is feared that there will be a great increase in Lyme disease this year due to a lack of acorns – which is the favorite food for the white footed mouse, which is the favorite blood source of the black-legged tick that causes Lyme disease. This spring there will a lot of Borrelia burgdorferi-infected black-legged ticks looking for a blood meal and instead of finding a mouse they are going to find other mammals such as dogs and people. There is a specific Lyme vaccine we can give your pet to protect it against the disease.

There are many effective flea, tick and heartworm preventative products on the market. All involve monthly treatment. It is important to treat your animal year round, especially with the climatic changes. Some preventatives require giving a pill and some a liquid spot-on between the shoulder blades or neck. At the Animal Hospital of the Rockaways we can help you find the protection that is best suited for your pet’s needs. Please stop in and discuss it with us. All our products are fully guaranteed by manufacturer and are competitively priced.

This is also the time to check your yard for containers that are holding standing water. Old tires and planters provide perfect breeding spots for mosquitoes. Homeowners should also fix any window or porch screens. We are approaching the season when you’re going to want to have your windows open so if your screens need repair, this would be the time to do that.

Please remember to visit us if you have any questions. We are at 114-10 Beach Channel Drive, and can be reached via our website at www.animalhos p italoftherockaways.com or on facebook.

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