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A pest free summer for pets Special To The Star-news | Thu, May 27 2010 03:08 PM

With the return of warm weather, everyone - including the family pet - is likely to be spending more time outdoors in the coming months.

But pet owners need to be especially cautious, as insects like fleas and ticks can pose a serious health risk to dogs, cats and other animals during the spring and summer.

Fleas, for example, are not just an itchy annoyance. Known for leaving itchy red bumps, their saliva can cause anemia and dermatitis and transfer tapeworms.

"Fleas are known for their quick breeding capabilities and a handful on your pet can quickly turn into hundreds in your home if left unchecked," said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. "Their small size and mobility make it impossible to detect them on surfaces such as carpets and linens, but a pest professional can help eradicate an infestation."

Ticks can be equally hazardous to family pets. Female ticks can attach near a pet's spinal cord, causing "tick paralysis." The condition causes muscle weakness, loss of coordination and in some cases death from respiratory failure as chest muscles become paralyzed.

The NPMA recommends these tips to help reduce your pet's exposure to fleas and ticks:

*Check pets frequently for fleas and flea dirt. Be aware of excessive scratching, licking and nibbling grooming behavior in pets.

*Avoid walking in tall grass, where there is a greater chance of fleas hitching a ride.

*Avoid tick habitats such as low-growing brushy vegetation along the edge of the woods or a trail.

*Bathe pets after walks or playtime with other animals.

* Wash pet bedding, collars and plush toys.

* Wash bed linens and vacuum carpets, floors and furniture frequently. Empty vacuum bags in an outside receptacle.

If you suspect a pest problem, contact a licensed pest professional immediately to treat the problem.

For more information or to find a professional, you can visit www.pestworld.org.

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