In our climate, March through May is the predominant time of year for flea and tick infestations.
If you own pets, it is time to be particularly aware of fleas and ticks and to take action against them. If you see fleas on your dog, your first line of defense should be a thorough bath, lathering them up and making sure the lather penetrates the fur and reaches the skin. Leave them lathered up as long as you can since fleas can stave off drowning for up to 24 hours, but they don’t last long in suds. Should you choose a flea shampoo, be aware that most are highly toxic for both you and your pet, especially for puppies and pregnant or lactating moms.
Flea and tick drops can be an effective treatment, just make sure you match your pet’s weight to the recommended weight range of the product you buy. For dogs, allow to completely dry after bathing, and then apply the drops to the back of the lower neck/haunches area. If your dog likes to play in water, make sure you get one marked waterproof. Dog and cat drops are different; do not apply doggie drops to cats. For cats the drops are also applied to the back of the neck, but you may have to wrap your cat in a towel, as they can be much less cooperative than dogs. You can also get flea and tick prevention medicine in pill form, some brands giving 12 weeks of protection in one dose. Whichever you choose, all animals in the same household should be treated at the same time.
And it’s not just your pets to watch out for. If you see fleas or ticks, all of your pet's bedding should also be laundered, and any rugs or carpeting in your house should be vacuumed. If there are fleas and/or ticks in your yard it will be nearly impossible to keep them off your pets, and you will have to treat your yard as well until the parasites are gone.
The Dangers of Anaplasma, Ehrlichia and Rickettsia
If you live in Vallarta and especially if you own pets, you should be aware of the tick-borne diseases prevalent here. Anaplasma and Ehrlichia can bring sudden illness to your pet, more so in dogs and rarely in cats, and if not treated immediately can be deadly within days. Symptoms can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, stiffness and pain, vomiting, or abnormal bleeding. I myself lost two dogs within days of each other to Ehrlichia. It happened so fast that when the first dog died I thought she had been poisoned. Then just a few evenings later I noticed another dog was lethargic and seemed ill, and I planned to take her to the vet the next morning but she passed in the night. It happens that fast, one day your dog is sick, and the next it is dead. This is why it is so important to administer preventative treatment to your pets against fleas and ticks.
And you can get sick, too. Rickettsia can become severe in humans, sometimes even causing death. I have a friend who lives here in Vallarta, who has fallen into a critical stage of Rickettsia requiring hospitalization several times. Symptoms can include fever, severe headache, a general feeling of illness, rash, progressive weakness and confusion, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
All three of these tick-borne diseases can be treated with doxycycline, usually with quick results. However once inside a host these diseases remain after treatment, and the host will need to be continually re-treated at prescribed intervals or if symptoms recur. So all in all, if you love your pets as much as I love mine, and you don’t want your family or yourself to get sick either, take preventative action against fleas and ticks!