Wet weather brings more fleas, ticks

CONYERS - Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are on the rise in much of Georgia, including east metro Atlanta, because of last year's drought, recent rainfall and even the economy, according to local experts. That increase in pest population can spell bad news for pets and their owners.

Shannon Miller, a veterinarian at Honey Creek Veterinary, said that last year's drought may have driven many fleas and ticks into and under many local residents' homes, causing these insects to hibernate until conditions improved.

It usually requires six weeks of freezing weather to kill these insects, but according to Jule-Lynn Macie, the Rockdale County Extension Office director, Georgia's winter conditions aren't cold enough to eliminate the pests and the mild, humid temperatures of the Southeast lend themselves to insect propagation.

"Insects have to have water, and with the wet spring, they've had more water, and you're going to have less mortality," Macie said.

According to Miller, the number of clients bringing their pets in with flea- and tick-related problems has been on the rise.

"We've actually seen more flea and tick diseases than I remember in the past five years," Miller said. "Every fifth appointment is probably flea- and tick-related."

Recently, Miller has seen many flea anemic cats that have needed blood transfusions or died as a result of the disease. She has also treated many dogs in Conyers recently that suffer from ehrlichia, a disease like Lyme disease that can cause long-term joint and organ damage.

Miller believes, however, that one of the reasons flea and tick diseases are on the rise this summer is because of the economy.

"I think the recession has a lot to do with it," Miller said. "People can't afford to bring their pets to the vet like they used to."

Miller said that, in some cases, clients have used dog flea and tick treatments on their cats, resulting in seizures and even death for the animal. In other cases, she has seen people treat their animals for fleas and ticks but not their house or yard, making the original treatment ineffective.

Miller said that pet owners need to focus on effective flea treatment, which can take months at a time, and not just flea prevention, to stop further infestations from recurring. She also suggests using prescription-strength products sold in veterinary offices, as opposed to purchasing over-the-counter flea and tick treatments.

"The problem if you buy over-the-counter is that you are at your own risk," Miller said.

Regardless of what type of flea control a consumer uses, Miller believes it's all about having a healthy animal.

Miller recommended a variety of medications to treat flea and insect-related problems such as Front Line, Advantix, Advantage, Revolution and Comfortis.

"Fleas and ticks are a big deal for us," Miller said.

Brittany Binowski can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com