ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Feeling a little itchy these days? You might just want to look to Fido and Fifi for answers. 

Our mild winter has led to an early flea and tick season that's likely to be the worst in years, said veterinarians.

When it comes to his four-legged friends Pudding and Pepper, Loren Gillis doesn't take any chances.

"I treat them monthly," said Gillis, of Allentown, who treats them for fleas and ticks. 

He's a manager at PetSmart and knows this year is already bad.

"It's increased dramatically," he said.

Dr. Nancy Soares at Macungie Animal Hospital said flea and tick cases are usually rare this time of year, but she's already seen plenty.

"We're going to see a huge amount of fleas and ticks, and we're also going to see a lot of diseases associated with those parasites," she said.

According to Soares, you can blame the warm winter, which not only let fleas and ticks reproduce throughout the year, but eliminated many of the white mice they normally cling to.

"Now those fleas and ticks are going to look to our backyard pets to feed off of," she said.

Tick bites can lead to Lyme disease. Soares said symptoms can run the gamut, from limping and painful joints to a decrease in appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.

"Just what we call 'ADR,' she said. "They 'ain't doing right.'"

If you're wondering where all these pests live, try your own backyard.  They tend to thrive in knee-high brush and wooded areas.

Soares said most store-bought flea collars are ineffective, though some new prescription ones work well.  The best prevention, she said, is just brushing your dog every time he or she comes inside.

There is a silver lining to this early flea and tick season: it's likely to end early.

"I would say by the time the kids are ready to go back to school, we should see the bulk of it end," said Soares.

Until then, though, it could be a long summer for man's best friend.