Have you noticed that the flea situation in the past few years has been out of control? Our pets never used to get fleas and suddenly it’s a huge problem in our house. Fleas aren’t the only pests on the rise. Tick and mosquito populations are also exploding right now. It turns out that climate change is creating an ideal habitat for pests and that’s bad news for your pets.
Last year and this year, we experienced two of the warmest winters on record, which is great news if you’re a flea, tick or mosquito. Winter’s chill is part of what keeps pest populations in check and the overall warmer winters we’ve been having are creating great conditions for these pests to thrive.
Fleas and ticks are adapting by getting smaller, breeding like gangbusters and eating more. Eating more when you’re a flea or tick often means biting our dogs and cats, which can transmit disease. Mosquitoes—which carry heartworm, West Nile and other illnesses—are also doing great in this climate. They’re able to breed more and survive in more places.
According to a recent report by Seattle PI, heartworm used to mainly be a problem in the southern part of the U.S., for example, but now it’s an issue in all 50 states thanks to the mosquito’s expanding habitat. Ticks used to only be an issue during warm months, but now we’re seeing Lyme disease cases pop in the middle of winter, even in the Northeast and Midwest U.S. Lyme disease is a problem for both animals and humans.
So, what’s a responsible pet owner to do?
Unfortunately, we need to adapt along with the pests that are plaguing our pets. We used to only give our dog and cat flea medicine in the summer, but now my husband and I treat our animals year-round. Trust me: a maintenance-oriented flea treatment is a lot better than having to rid your house of a flea infestation, which can take weeks and involves, among other things, washing every scrap of fabric in your house to kill any eggs. To prevent fleas and ticks you can try these natural flea and tick remedies or go with vet-prescribed ones to protect your pets and your home.
When it comes to heartworm, you do not want to mess around. While heartworm is usually curable, it’s very dangerous for dogs and cats if you don’t catch it early on. Treatment can also be extremely costly. Most vets recommend a preventive to protect your dog or cat’s heart. We use a flea-heartworm combo pill for our cat and dog. We chose this oral medication because I worried that my two-year-old would be exposed to topical flea medication if he hugged his furry pals before the medicine fully absorbed. Talk to your vet about the heartworm medication options to see what’s the best fit for your family.
Fleas and mosquitoes bite and move on, but ticks stick around on your pet’s skin, which is why you should check your dog or cat for ticks, especially if she’s been outside for an extended period. The faster you spot and remove the tick, the better your chance of preventing it from transmitting a disease. If you do spot a tick, you want to make sure to get the whole thing off. Put on some gloves, then use tweezers to grab the bugger as close to your pet’s skin as possible without pinching the skin. Pull straight up to remove the tick, then give your pet lots of hugs and treats for being such a good girl/boy!
There are some steps you can take to make your home and pet less hospitable to the pests that endanger your pets. Get rid of standing water in your yard and you get rid of potential pest breeding grounds. You can also use a fine-toothed flea comb once a day on their coats and check them whenever they come in from playing outside. If you have carpet, vacuum regularly to keep fleas from breeding in the fibers.
Of course, preventing and treating this symptom of climate change is only a bandaid. What we ultimately need to do is affect the cause. We need real legislation to support cleaner energy, we need to properly educate our children about climate change and we need to change our own habits.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.