No doubt about it, fleas drive us and our pets crazy. While considered a nuisance for some, they are capable of spreading serious diseases like Typhus, Bubonic Plague, and tapeworms. They thrive in warm, humid environments that provide the ideal scenario for reproduction. Female fleas have a lifespan of 30-90 days and are capable of discharging 40 to 50 eggs per day, potentially resulting in hatching of thousands of eggs. The adult fleas we see are only the tip of the iceberg, as 95% of the flea population is present as eggs, larvae, and pupae. So if you are seeing a lot of adult fleas on your pet, you have a serious infestation. Larval and pupal stages can survive cold temperatures, waiting until spring to hatch.
Ticks have been present on earth for millions of years. They are harder to kill and survive temperature extremes, with a lifespan of months to years. One female can lay thousands of eggs, which hatch when temperatures and humidity rise. Ticks can transfer viruses, bacteria, and protozoa to their hosts, resulting in serious illness. These include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, tularemia, and tick paralysis. Once attached, ticks are harder to remove from the host. Ticks have been responsible for economic losses from infestation of cattle herds, but interestingly, not all animals in the herd will be affected equally. Usually the weaker animals will have high infestation while the stronger animals will be minimally infested.
Over the years, strong chemicals have been developed to deal with these parasites. Development of new chemical products has been driven by fear and greed. Drug companies feed on our fear of disease and their need for higher profits. Unfortunately, our pets often pay the price with their lives when new chemicals are developed that cause seizures, liver and kidney failure, and skin reactions. Problems with chemical treatment of livestock include toxicity to handlers and animals, environmental contamination of land and water supplies, residues contaminating meat and milk, and development of resistance to the chemicals by the fleas and ticks.
Vaccinations have been developed to protect pets and livestock against the diseases spread by these vectors, most notably Lyme Disease for pets and multiple vaccines for livestock. Unfortunately, many pets with minimal exposure to ticks are vaccinated every year for Lyme disease. Again, fear and greed drive the push for vaccination when it is not warranted.
If you want to avoid the use of chemicals in your pets, how do you deal with these potentially disease-causing pests? Stay tuned for part two.