Climate Change Means Extended Holiday for Fleas and Ticks

Image: Septimiu Lupea/Pexels

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

While climate change is making winters shorter it’s prolonging one nasty seasonal affliction for pets: fleas and ticks. These parasites thrive in warm, humid weather and as global temperatures rise, they’re not only living longer but also expanding their territory, causing health problems for an increased number of pets. 

Why This Matters: According to experts, fleas and ticks can lead to a variety of health problems for your pet. Pets with fleas often suffer from

  • Skin and nail damage from over scratching.
  • Allergic reactions.
  • Secondary infections.
  • Hair loss.
  • Anemia from blood loss.
  • Tapeworms.

There are over 135 million household pets in the United States, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Each year, pet owners spend an average of $253 per dog and $98 per cat on veterinary care. A sharp uptick in parasitic afflictions will not only cause suffering for pets but can hike up the bills for veterinary care, making it unaffordable for pet owners who may not be able to pay for the initial infestation or the subsequent symptoms and conditions. 

Once fleas begin reproducing on the skin of a pet, they can spread to an entire household very quickly. Just like with pets, fleas and ticks can lead to infections and tapeworms in children.  Unfortunately, there’s not an affordable fix. According to HomeAdvisor, it costs an average of $270 to exterminate fleas from an average-sized home, and some infestations may take multiple home treatments to expel.

What’s more is that tick-borne Lyme disease is also expected to rise in the United States as the climate warms, which can cause debilitating side effects for people. 

The COVID Connection

Increased flea and tick infestations are just one example of how climate change is affecting not only animal health but human health. Experts say that as the climate warms, infections that jump from animals to humans, like COVID-19, will become more and more common. Dr. Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital told WBUR, “climate change is pushing everything that can move, plant, animal and otherwise to get out of the heat…And that may make opportunities for things to run into each other that wouldn’t have run into each other previously…that can allow for what we call “spillover” of a pathogen from an animal to another animal, or from an animal to a person.”

Brian Herrin, a veterinarian at Kansas State University, says that pet owners should practice year-round flea and tick prevention to protect their furry friends, but Bernstein reminds the public that the best preventative care is climate action. “The link is critically at the most preventative stage, which is also the most cost-effective point…preventing deforestation, addressing the root causes of climate change and air pollution — have health benefits that go well beyond pandemics.”

 

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