Fight the Bite!

by Dr. Nathan Carlton


Spring is here again, and it has been a wet one. With warm wet weather come ectoparasites; bugs that live on the outside of their hosts’ bodies.

These little critters aren’t just annoying; they can cause or transmit disease in and to people and animals. Some of these are zoonotic diseases, which can actually jump between animals and people. 

Kissing bugs are small parasites that feed on blood and like to bite humans around the mouth and eyes. These guys are about the size of a penny, and can transmit Chagas, which is a parasitic disease caused by Trypanosoma cruzi

The disease has two phases, acute and chronic. The acute form causes fever, fatigue, headache and rash among other signs and symptoms; the chronic form can cause heart disease, heart failure and intestinal problems. People and dogs can get this disease.  

To keep this bug away from your home and animals, keep lights off in your home and kennel areas at night, remove refuse (like wood piles) from around the home, and treat the yard with a synthetic pyrethroid. Effitix is a topical flea and tick preventive that contains a synthetic pyrethroid and is applied once monthly to dogs only.

Most people know fleas in Central Texas are a constant issue. Fleas are amazing at adapting to the flea preventives, and after a few years on the market the efficacy of the chemicals starts to wear off. I have heard owners complain that the Advantix they put on their dog two weeks ago isn’t working anymore. There is a new class of products available—isooxazolines, which  kill fleas and ticks very effectively. Bravecto, NexGard and Simparica are three brands of this new class of medications. Texas A&M Veterinary Dermatologist Dr. Alison Diesel recommends a dog or cat be on flea and tick prevention year-round in Texas since we do not have a “true winter” to kill off fleas. 

Fleas can cause Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) in dogs; this is an allergic skin condition that makes them miserable. Monthly flea prevention will help keep them from contracting this disease as long as the preventive repels the fleas and keeps them from biting your pet. 

Sentinel, a heart worm and flea preventive, does not kill fleas, and will do nothing to stop adult fleas. This means that a dog suffering from FAD would continue to be afflicted, even while taking this monthly medication.

There are many other ectoparasites in Texas that can cause problems for animals and people. Be sure to discuss with your veterinarian the best way to prevent these bugs from becoming a real problem.

After graduating from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Carlton served four years in the United States Army as a Veterinary Corps Officer. He honed his clinical skill set working on these unique animal populations, and now brings that special knowledge to the community at Jarrell Animal Hospital. Dr. Carlton is a member of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Association of Equine Practitioners, Texas Veterinary Medical Association, and he continues to serve in the United States Army Reserve.

Jarrell Animal Hospital

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