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I Hate Bugs

Barb and I were soaking in the hot tub just the other night; unwinding after a long day and watching the planets emerge into the twilight (Did you know that Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn are all visible right now?) WHEN SUDDENLY we were swarmed by a mosquito! It was a big sucker too, and buzzed around us in the most irritating way until we encouraged it to seek warm blood in its next life. Yeah sure, the mosquito was only trying to bite me so she could obtain enough protein to produce her eggs, but no thanks. I have no desire to participate in a mosquito’s reproductive life.

I try to have compassion for all of Mother Nature’s living things, but I have absolutely no regard for blood sucking insects. Mosquitos… who needs ‘em? It’s not like I hate ALL bugs. The Hummingbird Moth, for example, now there’s a cool bug. Or the Preying Mantis! Why didn’t Mother Nature create a Preying SuperMantis that would fly around eating mosquitos and fleas and ticks? It could eat all the lice too, for all I care.

Mosquitos, fleas, ticks… Yik. They are all insect vectors of disease. A vector is any organism that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism. The list of diseases spread this way is crazy long.

Take my mosquito (Please!): We all know that mosquitos spread West Nile virus to people and horses, but mosquitos also carry St. Louis Encephalitis and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis viruses, among others. Other California mosquitos are capable of transmitting malaria, a really fun disease. Recently, two new species of mosquito have been found in California, both of which bite during the day. These little bloodsuckers are capable of transmitting Dengue and Yellow Fever viruses, and several nasty diseases with unpronounceable names. Mosquitos transmit heartworms between dogs and also to cats. (Heartworm disease was a subject of an earlier column. See http://sonomacountygazette.blogspot.com/search/lab... ). Where is that SuperMantis when we need it?

Everyone knows that fleas bite. Severely infected pets can lose so much blood that they become anemic, but most flea problems result from the animal’s allergic reaction to flea saliva. These reactions cause discomfort, itchiness, hair loss, and a variety of other inflammatory skin problems. It is less known that fleas carry tapeworms in dogs and cats. Fleas also serve as vectors for bartonella bacteria, the cause of Cat Scratch Fever in humans and Canine Bartonellosis. Dogs with this disease may show a variety of signs including heart disease, anemia, hepatitis, polyarthritis, internal eye inflammation, and bleeding disorders. Cats have their own version of the disease. Other Bartonella have been associated with rheumatoid arthritis in people, and the full extent of these organisms’ effect on human health is unknown. Did I mention plague? We can thank fleas for spreading that one around. Here SuperMantis! Here boy! Come and eat some fleee-eas!

I hate ticks too, disgusting little creatures that they are. They suck. As vectors go, ticks are some of the worst. Ticks carry Lyme disease, which effects both dogs and people, but spread other blood-borne bacterial pathogens causing anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis – and that’s just in California! In other states, ticks are vectors for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, hepatozoonosis, and several other richettsial and viral diseases in companion animals, cattle and people. In our hospital, we see dogs with Lyme, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis on a weekly basis, all because Sonoma County is blessed with a large population of blacklegged deer ticks. There is nothing attractive about a tick. They’re ugly when they’re small and uglier when they’re big. They want to drink my blood and make me sick. I should build a SuperMantis signal beacon!

There are lots of reasons to hate bugs. Fortunately, there are several medications available to kill them. I particularly like Trifexis® and Comfortis®, a chewable, once-a-month pills that kill every flea who dares bite my dog or cat – for a whole month! I’m currently watching two new oral medications (My patients never get new products until they have been on the market and proven safe for at least 6 months). These new pills claim to safely kill fleas AND ticks for 3 months! Now that’s a product I can get behind! I hope experience proves these drugs are as safe as the manufacturers claim.

Ask your veterinarian about vector-borne disease prevention. Kill a blood-sucking disease vector today!

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