Pets and Pests

When it comes to pests entering your home, your beloved pets can be major “carriers,” as they conceivably could bring pests in with them each time they re-enter your home from the outside.

What type of pests? Ticks, fleas, mites and even lice.

Take a look below for more information on these pests and how you can prevent your pets from bringing them home.

Ticks love mammals. Cats and dogs are mammals and ticks love to feed on your pets. Deer ticks – those which can carry the debilitating Lyme disease – can also feast on your pets, potentially resulting in Fluffy or Fido coming down with the disease themselves (not to the possibility that the ticks could infect human family members).

Symptoms of Lyme disease in your pet include swollen lymph nodes and joints, lameness, and a reduced appetite. A severe case of the disease could see your pet developing kidney disease, a nervous system disorder and heart conditions.

The good news is that the tick must be attached to your pet and sucking its blood for 48 hours to transmit the bacteria that causes the disease.

While ticks are more prevalent in the more-humid Northeast region of the country and fleas are less so in the east than in the dry Southwest (including Southern California), your pet can  bring them into your home no matter where you live.

Fleas can infest your home in a matter days because one female can lay eggs every 12 days. What’s more, she lays up to 50 of them each time. So if all of her female offspring then lay the same amount of eggs in just 12 days (plus Mom’s eggs)…. Well, you can see how fast you and your family can be overrun by fleas.

( reports that one flea can become one million in just six weeks. “In 3 weeks, one flea can pass through its entire life cycle and can lay 1,000 eggs. In another 3 weeks, those eggs can hatch and lay 1,000 eggs each, so within 6 weeks, it is possible to have a million new fleas.”)

Fleas can transmit tapeworms to your pet. Every time your dog (or even cat) snaps at a flea and swallows it, it can expose itself to a tapeworm that affixes itself to your pet’s small intestine, where it ingests nutrients needed by your pet. You could see rice-like tapeworm parts in your pet’s feces in a few weeks, which could also carry eggs and possibly infect humans and other pets.

Dog lice also can hop aboard your dog when the pet is outdoors – or even indoors. While not as common as fleas (lice tend to appear where conditions aren’t sanitary), they can grow on your pet until they infest the pet’s entire coat. The good news is that the type of lice that like dogs, don’t jump to humans (and vice versa). Dog lice can, however, jump to another dog in your home, infecting that animal. (The good news is that dog lice is relatively uncommon in the U.S.).

Mites (sometimes known as ear mites), tend to infect dogs and cats. These parasites can infest your pet by very casual contact either indoors or out. Mites are more common in cats than dogs (they are responsible for more than half all cat ear infections). Humans tend to be immune to ear mites. You’ll know your pet may have ear mites because your pet will scratch or rub his ears excessively. In severe cases, your pet’s entire ear canal can become infected.

To prevent these pests from entering your home via your pet, try the following:

•    Keep your kitties as indoor pets only; don’t let them venture outside.
•    As for dogs, talk to your veterinarian to discuss flea and tick control products that could protect him.
•    As for dog lice,  it’s best to keep your dog in sanitary conditions and have him groomed and shampooed regularly so the lice could be detected quickly. Dog lice are easy to treat; talk to your vet about treatment options.
•    Ear mites are best prevented by regular cleaning of your cat’s ears for early detection and treatment. If your cat  has just been treated for mites, make sure to clean her bedding and check your other pets for possible infestation.