Dr. Alicia Simoneau, Chief Veterinary Officer for Humane Pennsylvania
Spring has sprung! The warm weather will have people and pets outdoors more frequently. Be warned: temperatures like this also mean ticks and fleas will be out in full force. Here are some tips on flea and tick preventatives and reasons why prevention should be a part of your regular pet maintenance plan.
Pennsylvania is a hot spot for tick borne disease. Some species of ticks in our area frequently transmit Lyme, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia. Infrequently seen tick borne diseases in our area include Babesiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The same ticks that transmit tick borne disease to dogs can transmit the disease to humans as well. A tick needs to be feeding for over 18 hours before it transmits disease. It is important to use a reputable product that acts quickly to kill a tick before it can spread disease. Some products will repel ticks as well. Checking animals for ticks after they come in from outside is advisable. There are many great products on the market with a variety of routes of administration. These routes include a chewable that last one to three months, collars that last up to 8 months and once monthly topical applications. Choosing the right one will depend on your pet and your preference. Products made to be effective against ticks are also effective against fleas. It is extremely important to make sure a product that is effective against ticks is specifically labeled for use in cats.
While ticks can transmit diseases that harm the inside of a pet’s body, fleas cause diseases on the inside AND outside of our pets’ bodies. Fleas are a common cause of skin disease, allergies and intestinal parasites for dogs and cats. They are contagious external parasites that can readily jump from animal to animal or can be carried by people into a home as they jump on our clothing. Wild animals coming into back yards where our pets roam is another way a yard can be a source of fleas. Once a flea is observed it is not sufficient to bathe once and call your problem resolved. A flea treatment needs to be used for a minimum of 3 months to get rid of an infestation. This length of time is due to the life cycle of the flea. Fleas can live in an environment without a blood meal for over 3 months. Flea dips and shampoos are not recommended due to their harsh ingredients. Flea dips do not help rid the animal of an infestation because pupae and eggs are already in the environment. Bathing with a gentle shampoo made for pets is a better option for removing adult fleas. A quality chewable or topical application for a minimum of 3 months is important treatment and prevention against future fleas. Because fleas are so contagious, all pets in a household need to be treated concurrently. Fleas carry diseases such as tapeworms, and Bartonella most commonly. Not all products that are effective against fleas are effective against ticks. Cats can have particular sensitivity to certain ingredients in low quality flea products, which should be avoided.
In summary, ticks and fleas serve as vectors for human disease. Preventing these external parasites on pets is a better option than dealing with the consequences of the diseases they cause or an infestation. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable product for your pets.
DO: Use year round
DO: Use a reputable brand your veterinarian recommends
DO: Ensure the product is labeled for the correct body weight and species
DO: Follow label instructions closely
DO: Check your animal regularly for fleas and ticks
DO NOT: Use dog products on cats
DO NOT: Use flea dips or shampoos