Pest protection for pet owners

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July 27, 2022

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Dr. Austin Frishman, BCE-Emeritus

Several years ago, I wrote a column for this magazine about what pest management professionals (PMPs) need to consider when they service residential accounts where dogs and cats also dwell. With COVID-19 came a tremendous increase in people working from home and not venturing out as much. The need for a domestic pet grew increasingly important. I thought it therefore pertinent to both resurrect and update this information.

Having a pet has many advantages for humans, not the least of which are companionship and the sense of having a living thing rely on you. Some of my best times both as a child and adult was playing with my dog. But with this acquisition comes responsibility, much of which the typical pet owner does not comprehend initially.

What follows is a list of items to bring to the attention of your customers, all reinforcing the need for them to count on you as a “protector of their environment — and pets.”

CLEAR THOSE DISHES

  • Pharaoh ants, fire ants and other ant species are attracted to pet food. This can result in harming the pet.
  • Cockroaches feed on pet food. Pet food also decreases the effectiveness of the cockroach bait you may be using.
  • Raccoons, opossums and other wildlife are attracted to pet food. This can bring fleas onto the property, which then attack pets, children and adults.
  • Rodents are attracted to pet food. They can carry ticks, which are associated with Lyme disease, among other diseases.
  • Neglected pet water dishes can breed mosquitoes.

CLEAN UP THE YARD

  • Grass cuttings left to accumulate in a pile can serve as a breeding area for stable flies (Stomoxys calcitrans). These flies tend to bite a pet’s nose and ears.
  • Paper wasps (Polistes spp.) readily nest inside the exteriors of pet shelters. They can sting the pet.
  • Rats can burrow under exterior pet houses. They do so because it is close to the pet food.
  • American dog ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) and brown dog ticks (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) find dogs to be very suitable hosts. American dog ticks also are associated with tick paralysis in pets and people.
  • House flies (Musca domestica), flesh flies (Sarcophagidae) and bottle flies (Calliphoridae) are attracted to the property by pet dung.
  • Some bottle flies may deposit eggs in a pet wound. This is known as myiasis.
  • Pets tend to destroy screen doors, thereby allowing exterior insects to enter the home.

TIDY THE HOUSE

  • Grain beetles (Trogoderma spp.) can attack dry pet food. A pet can consume these insects without realizing it. The immature beetles produce certain hairs called hastisetae. These hairs can irritate the inner lining of a pet’s digestive system.
  • Cigarette beetles (Lasioderma serricorne) and drugstore beetles (Stegobium paniceum) thrive in dry pet food. These beetles also can spread to spices, cigarettes and medication. Sometimes you do not find the beetles until the adults are attracted to lights.
  • Mice pick up pet treats and store them inside wall voids. Indianmeal moths (Plodia interpunctella) and sawtoothed grain beetles (Oryzaephilus surinamensis) then find the food and breed inside the walls.
  • Carpet beetle larvae feed on dry dog food and pet hair. These dermestids can then move over to carpeting and upholstery.
  • House dust mites (Dermatophagoides spp.) thrive on dandruff and hairs shed from pets.
  • Pet reptiles like snakes and bearded dragons can pick up their own parasites, including mites and ticks.

PROTECT YOURSELF AND SHOW YOUR VALUE

Remember, even small dogs have sharp teeth. Think before entering a structure. Have the client enter before you if you can. If not, open the door slowly and slide one shoe in by barely cracking the door open. If you feel something grab your shoe, pull it close and lock the door. Indicate on your paperwork why you could not enter such an area.

You can help your pet owner clients by inspecting their pet food storage practices, feeding areas, pet house and other areas where they need to rely on you for added protection. An educated consumer will respect and understand the value of your services.

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