There's some pesky bugs popping up on the Treasure Coast earlier than usual this year, and it has animal care professionals "ticked" off.
Because of the milder winter, fleas and ticks are finding their way onto area pets with increasing gusto, according to Maria Ramirez, animal care supervisor for the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County.
"Every year, we have a problem," said Ramirez, who cares for the hundreds of cats and dogs at the animal shelter. "But with the warmer weather, it's a lot earlier than normal."
Some people don't have their animals on flea and tick preventatives during the winter months because the bugs drop out of sight when the temperature drops below 40 degrees. But with no sustained cold spells in December and January on the Treasure Coast, fleas and ticks have flourished in yards and wooded areas, increasing the likelihood that pets will come in contact with them.
At the Humane Society of St. Lucie County in Fort Pierce, veterinarian Dr. James Manning said many times owners are not applying the flea and tick preventative correctly so it can be ineffective in treating an animal. He suggested not bathing a pet for at least three days before and three days after the preventative like Frontline, Pet Guard, Revolution or Advantix is applied to the pet's coat. If the problem is severe, owners can treat the animal every three weeks instead of four, Manning suggested.
Candice Veach, director of operations for the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast in Palm City, said she's noticed an upswing in the number of animals with fleas, and has even found several ticks on her golden retriever. She said staff at the shelter is vigilant in applying the flea and tick preventative treatments so it has not seen any animals with severe infestations.
"My best advice is to be consistent," said Veach. "There's a lot of different products out there to use, but just don't skip months."
In addition to applying flea and tick preventatives to pets, owners should treat their yards as well, Ramirez said, especially if they have an animal that spends a lot of time outside.
And pets can become resistant when the same preventative products are applied over and over so pet owners might have to try different products.
"The best thing to do is to call your vet and let them know you're having a problem with fleas and ticks," said Ramirez. "There are so many products out there; it's best to get a recommendation from your vet."