Though we love all creatures, it’s hard to find something nice to say about fleas and ticks! As the weather gets warmer and both we and our pets venture more into the great outdoors, these pesky little pests can find their way onto our pets and into our homes.
Tiny and Terrible
Even adult fleas are tiny creatures, no bigger than a few millimeters long, but their impact is huge! Dogs and cats can scratch, lick, or chew their skin raw trying to deal with that itch. But even more than being an itchy, bothersome nuisance, fleas and ticks can also be the source of many diseases, including zoonoses, or diseases that are transmitted between animals and humans.
The list of unpleasant conditions that fleas and ticks can cause is long. Fleas can be blamed for tapeworm infestations, anemia, and flea allergy dermatitis, while ticks are responsible for diseases like Anaplasmosis and Lyme disease. While you can’t contract tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease from your pet directly, the same ticks that attach to your dog or cat can make their way to the humans in the household and transmit their diseases that way. The best way to avoid unpleasant diseases for all members of your household is by making sure fleas and ticks stay far away from your pets and home!
An Ounce of Prevention!
Safe and effective flea and tick prevention for your dogs and cats is crucial to keeping everyone in your family healthy. There are many approaches to effective parasite prevention ranging from collars to topical solutions to oral chews; the important thing is finding a product that works for your particular pet and being consistent with it.
Flea collars may often seem like a simple and economical option for your pet, however they aren’t always effective. And pesticide residue levels on your pet’s fur may be high enough to be a health concern to other members of the family. Especially if there are children in the house, you may want to consider a different form of flea and tick prevention. One of the more recent flea and tick collars to be introduced to the market is the Seresto collar. This collar kills and repels fleas and ticks for up to 8 months; if your pet’s monthly flea and tick treatment slips your mind each month, this collar may provide long-lasting protection.
Topical (on-the-skin) preventatives have been around for decades and include products like Frontline or Advantage which are applied as a small amount of liquid between your pet’s shoulder blades, where they can’t reach to lick. The treatment is stored in your pet’s oil glands and provides protection for 30 days. Your pet can be handled and hugged as soon as the application site is dry, but wait at least 2 days before bathing or swimming.
Some of the more recent advances made in flea and tick prevention include monthly oral preventatives like NexGard or Bravecto, chewable ‘treats’ your pup will gladly take. These prescription-only beef-flavored or pork-flavored chews are an easy-to-give alternative to topical treatments, especially in full-coated dogs where collars and topical treatments may not be as effective. An added benefit of these oral preventatives is that your dog doesn’t have to wait to have a bath or go for a swim! These chews are also a great option for households with children or multiple pets.
Most of these preventatives are weight and age dependent; check with your BetterVet veterinarian to make sure you are selecting an appropriate product for your dog or cat!
If you have an indoor-only cat, you may be wondering why you would use a flea and tick preventative. Actually, it is not uncommon for indoor cats to get fleas or ticks; these pests can hop a ride on you or your dog and, once in the house, make their way over to your indoor cat with ease. Successful flea and tick prevention needs to include everyone in the home!
Pyrethrins and pyrethroids can be found in many over the counter flea shampoos, flea collars, topical preventatives, and garden insecticides. Unfortunately, these can be problematic for cats who are very sensitive to these products. A canine pyrethrin/pyrethroid product should never be used on a cat. Drooling, vomiting, tremors, seizures, or difficulty breathing may all be signs of a pyrethrin toxicity in your cat. If you have a cat, the safest approach to flea and tick prevention is to avoid these products altogether and choose a different product for all pets in the household.
There are plenty of safer prescription and over-the-counter flea and tick preventatives for cats on the market. These include the Seresto for Cats collar and Revolution, a topical prescription medication that has the added benefit of preventing heartworm disease and controlling intestinal parasites and ear mites.
Find Out More!
Avoiding fleas and ticks is the easiest and safest way to ensure the health of your pet and your whole household. Take steps like checking yourself and your pets immediately after a hike to make sure no insects have hitched a ride into your home. Or check out the CDC’s website at
https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/in_the_yard.html for some tips on how to landscape your backyard to make it less attractive to ticks. And reach out to your BetterVet veterinarian to discuss which flea and tick preventative is right for your pet!