Tucson is full of many different types of insects, but here are a few that can potentially harm your pet:
1. Fleas and ticks are the Bonnie and Clyde duo at the top of the culprit list. But they aren’t always found together. There are more than 3,000 types of fleas in the world, but the one we usually see harassing our dogs and cats is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). And there is almost always more than one. Dogs and cats can develop fleabite hypersensitivity or flea allergy dermatitis, and in some cases can suffer chronic behavioral problems as a result of the severe itching of their skin. Scratching and chewing at their skin leads to dermal wounds, bacterial or fungal infections, or inflammation.
Ticks are arachnids, more closely related to the spider than the flea. The American dog tick (D. variabilis) can carry the pathogen that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is a highly infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. The American dog tick can attach to a dog’s neck and feed for up to 6 days, releasing a protein in the dog’s body that causes canine tick paralysis. This tick, as well as the wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) are known to be possible transmitters of tularemia. Other tick-borne diseases or infections include, Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Babesia and Anaplasma.
Your pet does not have to have to visit tick-infested areas to pick up an unwanted stowaway. They can be carried in on other animals and eventually transferred to your pet. Prevention is the best way to keep your pet safe from both fleas and ticks. NexGard? is a new chewable product by Merial, the makers of Frontline and Heartgard. NexGard is a soft, beef-flavored chewable. The ingredient (afoxolaner) is absorbed into the blood stream and reaches its peak levels within 2 to 4 hours, killing fleas, American dog ticks and other tick species (including the Brown dog tick) for a full month.
The new product is available for dogs only. Contact the staff at Encanto Pet Clinic for information about NexGard, Frontline Plus for dogs and Frontline Plus for cats.
2. Africanized honeybees are no longer an urban legend. They have found a home in Tucson. Their stings are no different than the common bee, and a bee can only sting once. But Africanized honeybees are quicker to defend their nests and attack in larger numbers. They nest in cacti, trees, under rocks or in animal burrows. Be aware of your surroundings, and keep your pet on a leash and close to you when walking. Routinely check your yard and home exterior for signs of honeybee nesting activity. Do not disturb them or try to damage the hive – call an expert who can safely remove the colony.
The Agricultural Research Center recommends wearing light colored clothing when walking your dog. Consider putting a white shirt or cover on your dark-coated dog; bees will quickly become aggressive when animals or people resemble natural predators such as bears or skunks. Bees also see the color red as black so it is best avoid wearing that that color while hiking. Avoid wearing perfumes or using scented fly repellents on your pet. Keep your dog or cat inside if you are using yard equipment that vibrates or makes noise. Always plan an escape route in advance, in case you or your pets are attacked. The University of Arizona offers more tips to stay safe from Africanized honeybees.
3. Fire Ants are tiny, but they can leave a painful memory by stinging and biting. They are coppery red with a dark abdomen and a stinger on the end. They often nest in shaded areas, near foundations or water pipes. They eat almost anything, but they prefer to feed on protein such as aphids, insects – and small animals. A line of fire ants probably won’t carry off your Great Dane, but they can leave painful bites that he may scratch and cause secondary infections.
There are a number of products on the market that claim to kill ants, but take care to not introduce something that may harm your cat, dog or bird. Nontoxic methods are always preferred, as secondary poisoning is detrimental to our Sonoran Desert wildlife population. Consider creating a barrier of diatomaceous earth around your foundation, wall or fence. Studies by researchers at National Taiwan University found that cinnamon leaf oil as well as clove oil controlled invasions of fire ants.
4. Spiders, especially the brown recluse spider and the black widow spider, can bite and cause allergic reactions in dogs and cats. The brown recluse spider is also known as the “fiddle-back,” or “violin” spider because of the violin-shaped pattern on its body. But this is not always true – young spiders may not have the marking. Often bites occur when the recluse climbs into a pet’s bedding at night, and is disturbed by the animal’s movement. Bites leave an ulcerating wound that is slow to heal and can lead to infection and gangrene. Renal failure and death has been known to occur from a recluse bite. The Pet Poison Helpline suggests calling your veterinarian if you see signs of a recluse bite on your pet.
The black widow spider female is recognizable by its red or orange hourglass design on its bulbous black abdomen. Males generally do not bite. They can be found in sheds, garages, patios and other outdoor buildings. A bite from a female black widow spider contains toxic venom that affects nerve endings, and is especially toxic to cats. It can cause burning pain that could last up to 48 hours, combined with muscle paralysis and increased heart rate. Keep outbuildings swept clean of webs and make sure containers are closed securely to minimize your dog or cat’s contact with spiders.
If you think your dog or cat has been bitten by one of these insects, contact Encanto Pet Clinic as soon as possible.