Fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of any warm-blooded body. The most common species is the cat flea, which often feasts on cats, dogs and humans. They are flat, dark reddish-brown, and 1/12 to 1/6-inch long. Fleas transport themselves on rodents and other mammals and infest both household pets and wild animals. Fleas use their powerful legs to jump as high as 8-inch vertically and 16-inch horizontally. Fleas usually remain on their warm-blooded hosts at all times. They can also be found on shoes, pant legs, or blankets, which can transfer the fleas to new environments. They are often found infesting squirrels, rats, opossums, raccoons, and skunks. Flea bites vary in effect from short-lived itching welts to an overall rash to symptoms which may last over a year, depending on the sensitivity of the victim. Young children are more sensitive than older persons. Commonly, a small red spot appears where the skin has been pierced. Little swelling ensues, but the spot is accompanied by a red halo of irritated skin which usually lasts for several hours to a day. Fleas are vectors of several diseases to human health including plague, Nearly all known cases of plague in humans in the United States since 1925 have been associated with wild and their fleas. Murine typhus is a mild form of epidemic typhus that is usually spread by the human louse. The Norway rat population is the main reservoir of the disease. The disease is most common in the southwestern and Gulf states. The disease is commonly spread from rat to rat, and from rat to human by the oriental and northern rat fleas. It has also been transmitted by cat fleas from infected feral cats. Fleas are also vectors of tularemia, a disease related to plague. The natural reservoirs of tularemia are cottontail rabbits in the East, and jack rabbits in the West. Most cases reported are by hunters. Fleas can also be intermediate hosts of several species of tapeworm including species which parasitize humans, dogs, and cats. Adults can live for several years and go without feeding for months at a time under extreme conditions. Fleas can remain in a structure long after the host mammals have been removed. Outdoors, fleas are most abundant during humid, rainy summers and are more common outside in the southern United States than in the north. Indoors, warmth and high relative humidities are conducive to large populations. The sudden appearance of large numbers of adult fleas in mid-summer and fall ("flea seasons") is due in large part to the onset of higher humidities and temperatures which permit larval development to accelerate. Larvae may undergo arrested development in less than favorable conditions.
Fleas can also be intermediate hosts of several species of tapeworm including species which parasitize humans, dogs, and cats. Adults can live for several years and go without feeding for months at a time under extreme conditions. Fleas can remain in a structure long after the host mammals have been removed. Outdoors, fleas are most abundant during humid, rainy summers and are more common outside in the southern United States than in the north. Indoors, warmth and high relative humidities are conducive to large populations. The sudden appearance of large numbers of adult fleas in mid-summer and fall ("flea seasons") is due in large part to the onset of higher humidities and temperatures which permit larval development to accelerate. Larvae may undergo arrested development in less than favorable conditions.
Insect Growth Regulators
A new technology in the management of fleas is the use of insect growth regulators (IGRs). These substances are similar to chemicals produced by the flea to regulate the shedding of its skin during molting. They work by interfering with the molting process, thus preventing the immature flea from developing into an adult. Fleas can only reproduce and lay more eggs as adults. IGRs are effective at breaking the life cycle of fleas. This method of control is a long-term process, since it will only kill larvae as they molt.
Chemical Control of Fleas
Insecticides also part of our flea management program are applied to areas where fleas are most likely to breed, including animal bedding, carpet, rugs, cracks in floors, and baseboards Flea collars alone are not considered to be effective.
With eight legs instead of six, the tick is cousin to the spider, not the insect. It's claim to fame is its penchant for spreading disease as it feasts on mammal blood. There are several species that feed on dogs, including the wood tick, the brown dog tick, and the deer tick, and they all thrive in tall grass, shrubby areas, and woods.
Ticks can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, encephalitis, tularemia, tick paralysis, and Lyme disease, so it is important to prevent tick infestations in domestic dogs.
Lyme disease, a frightening collection of symptoms that can mimic fatigue, heart problems, and arthritis and cause birth defects, affects dogs and horses as well as people and has been found in every state but Montana and New Mexico. Lyme Disease is tough to diagnose but can be treated with antibiotics.
Unlike the flea, the tick is a sluggish mover and can easily be picked off the dog with tweezers as it crawls about looking for a feeding spot. So, after a walk in the woods, check your dog (and yourself) for ticks from stem to stern. Look for feeding ticks around the dog's head and ears and in his armpits and the inside of his thighs. If you miss one as it crawls, you'll likely find it when it latches on to feed as the engorged body is hard to miss in a hands-on inspection.
Daily grooming can find ticks that have not yet become embedded in the skin. Ticks can be picked up on the comb and flicked into a container of alcohol.
Embedded ticks should be removed immediately. First, forget all you ever heard about coating ticks with petroleum jelly, burning their rear ends with a match or lighted cigarette, dousing them with lighter fluid or gasoline, etc. Just protect fingers from the tick's body fluids with surgical gloves or a plastic bag, grasp the tick firmly, rock it back and forth a few times, and pull it out. If a patch of skin comes along, it's unlikely that any of the tick's head has been left behind.
A dab of antiseptic cream on the spot where the tick was removed will help prevent local infection, especially on tender ears, a favorite feeding place for ticks.
To control ticks in the environment, keep grass trimmed and control the spread of shrubbery and tall weeds. Perimeter pest control both indoors and out can also reduce tick infestation.
The mosquito prefers to bite people but will settle for your dog. Although the itchiness of mosquito bites is short-lived, this insect carries the heartworm microfilariae, the immature stage of the heartworm, and can transfer it to the dog. Heartworm infestations kill dogs. Since heartworm preventive can have adverse effects on dogs already infested with the parasite, owners should have their dogs tested each spring. This is a parasite infestation in which prevention is cheaper and safer than cure and where early diagnosis is a life-saver. Once the dog is found to be heartworm free, the preventive can be given. If you walk with your dog, avoid marshy places.
Mosquitoes are likely to be abundant in many areas this summer after an unusually rainy spring. One of the best known summer pests, mosquitoes breed in stagnant water or soft soil and can develop from egg to adult in 10 to 14 days. Female mosquitoes suck our blood. Male mosquitoes feed on plant nectars. After ingesting enough blood to satisfy their reproductive needs, the female mosquito lays her eggs in water, where they develop into larvae and adults. They can develop from egg to adult in 10 to 14 days. They are most active from dusk to dawn and will fly up to 14 miles for a blood meal.
Solutions suggests treating your yard to help lower the mosquito population. However mosquitoes may travel from miles away and be nested around a local stream, so there is no way to guarantee a 100% mosquito free yard here in Southeast Texas. The most simple means of mosquito control is via the use of repellants. You can buy repellant sprays or lotions just about anywhere. Elimination of standing water helps control mosquitoes, so remove any debris that can catch rain water and dump the water from plant-pot saucers. If you have a pond, keep the water aerated to disturb the surface tension. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water sources such as storm drains, old tires, children's wading pools and birdbaths.
Mosquitoes are well-known to spread diseases such as West Nile Virus, malaria and dengue fever.