Itch risk: Temperatures, humidity form perfect storm for fleas this summer

Pet owners beware; the flea population in the Chicago area will be higher this summer, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council.

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Yuri, a standard wire haired dachshund, at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Even pampered pooches, like Yuri, a standard wire haired dachshund competing in this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, are at risk for fleas. The Companion Animal Parasite Council is warning that this year there’s an even greater flea risk.

Associated Press

If there are more fleas out there this summer, trying to make dogs and cats miserable, May Zhu hasn’t noticed.

That’s because Zhu, who lives in the West Loop, makes sure her dog Olive always gets her monthly flea and tick medications.

“We try to keep her fur cut shorter in the summer, too, just to monitor anything,” Zhu said.

This year, it’s an especially good idea to keep a close eye on your dog, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council. The council tries to keep pet owners aware of the threats that fleas, ticks and other insects pose.

Its latest data shows a forecast of increased flea activity in the Chicago area that will last well into July.

That puts dogs — and cats, we’re not taking sides in THAT debate — at higher itch risk.

The “Flea Forecast Map” shows the predicted increase in fleas across the Midwest this summer.

The “Flea Forecast Map” shows the predicted increase in fleas across the Midwest this summer.

Companion Animal Parasite Council

“It’s that right combination of temperature and humidity that drives that,” said Rick Marrinson, a CAPC board member and veterinarian. “What we’re seeing now based upon the weather data from the Chicago metropolitan area is that we’re expecting the summer months to be prime for an explosion in the flea population.”

Bruce Silverman, a veterinarian at Village West Veterinary in Ukrainian Village, said while he hasn’t seen an uptick in flea cases at the clinic so far, he knew the higher temperatures the city already has seen meant this summer were going to create a high-risk year for pets.

A flea forecast map of the United States, posted on the council’s Pet Disease Alerts website, shows the growth of the U.S. flea population, as well as how there is a higher concentration in the Midwest now than in 2021.

Heat is a factor, but Marrinson said if humidity is high enough, fleas can flourish even in cooler temperatures.

Flea prevention medication, however, isn’t just a summer thing. The council advises pet owners to use it year-round to make sure that pets — and their homes — stay parasite-free.

“You can never really let your guard down,” Marrinson said. “Outdoors, we might see the populations rise and fall. But indoors, they can be a threat all year long.”

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