Lufkin veterinarian: keep an eye on pets, fleas and ticks to be bad this summer

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - They're called invisible monsters that are hiding inside our grass and even on our pets, and sometimes we don't even know they are there.

East Texas is currently dealing with a bad flea and tick infestation, and locals urge it's time to treat not only our pets, but our yards.

"They embed and they take a blood meal. A lot of times it will be a male and female tick both embedded there and then they'll lay eggs and then the cycle starts all over," Doug Ashburn, a veterinarian for Southwood Drive Animal Clinic in Lufkin, said.

Ashburn says if you feel a lump on your pet's skin and notice it has legs, that's a tick. But fleas are the tiny monsters we need to be more concerned about, he says.

"They live most of their life off of the animals so what you see on your animal is probably the tip of the iceberg compared to what you may have out in your yard," Ashburn said.

Ashburn says the best way to tell if your pet has fleas is to pull the hair from the back forward. Sometimes you will see little black specs crawling around on the skin. But Charlene Warren, the owner of ARA Exterminating in Lufkin, says you don't have to have a pet to get fleas.

"Fleas can stay dormant so when you go out of town and you put the air conditioner up on 75 or 78 degrees and then you come back, you're going to start stepping on the flea eggs and they're going to start hatching out and you're going to be the second blood meal besides the pet that you left in the house," Warren said.

Flea infestation begins in our yards, Warren says, and can progress inside our homes. She says the best time to start treating for fleas is in November and to continue treatment every three months. She says most of the time people are bringing fleas indoors, and that's how our pets get infected.

Ashburn says the best way to get rid of flea and tick infestation on pets is to vaccinate, but there are preventative treatments on the market.

"The technology has really advanced but whatever you do it's got to be a continuous program. It's not a once and done thing because fleas are kind of similar to fire ants in the fact that if we could have eradicated them, we would've eradicated. And we haven't been. There's no perfect product out there. There's a lot of products that will help keep them under control, but there's not anything that is going to put a protective shield around a pet and repel them," Ashburn said.

Warren says fleas love to hide in shady areas where dogs and cats like to rest during the summer days. She says untreated flea infestation can lead to diseases.

"If you have a house or a trailer house, modular house that is not skirted in, I highly recommend you skirt it in because that's where the dogs and the cats are going to go as it gets hot," Warren said.

Ashburn even warns about the West Nile Virus saying every once in a while a pet may contract the disease. He says it's been known to be contracted by horses, and in rare cases dogs have contracted it, and those animals had to be put down.

He says the virus is just as bad in animals as it is in humans.

"It's as deadly, yes. I mean anytime you get a virus in your brain or nervous system, it's serious," Ashburn said.

There are vaccinations for the West Nile Virus in animals, Ashburn says, but they are very expensive and it's not always successful.

But Warren says as long as homeowners spray for mosquitoes and keep an eye on standing water, East Texas pets should be okay.

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