Protect Your Pets from Fleas and Ticks
Fleas and ticks are a nuisance for you and your pet, but they also can transmit diseases that sometimes can be life-threatening. That’s why appropriate flea and tick prevention is essential.
Peak season for ticks in Connecticut is from early spring through fall, although it can extend longer depending on the temperature. The most common ticks of medical and veterinary concern in the northeastern U.S. are the deer tick, American dog tick, and the lone star tick.
Deer are hosts to ticks that can feed on your pet and you. One deer can support the development of 500,000 hungry new ticks each year. After feeding on the blood of a deer, the ticks fall onto the ground, where some will look for a new meal, while others lay thousands of eggs that will become hungry new ticks. Ticks lie in wait for a passing animal or person, latch on, and then insert their mouthparts to begin feeding on blood.
Ticks can transmit several diseases. Tick-transmitted diseases can have devastating effects on your dog or cat, including chronic pain, debilitation paralysis, and in some cases even death. Tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease, Erlichia, Babesia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. A blood test can reveal if your dog has any of these tick-borne diseases.
Various spot treatments, such as Frontline Plus, kill all stages of deer ticks, brown dog ticks, American dog ticks, adult fleas, eggs and larvae on dogs and cats for 30 days. Start treating your pets at the beginning of tick season and stay vigilant to prevent tick bites. There are many natural tick prevention products that combine natural oils to ward off ticks. Natural dietary supplements are also alternatives to chemical topical treatments for tick prevention. There are a number of websites that sell natural tick prevention products for dogs and cats.
Fleas thrive in warmer weather. Most regions of the country experience of outbreaks of fleas from spring through summer, but any time the temperature is warm enough and a food source is available, fleas can breed. That means they can breed in your home all year long if not eliminated. That’s why appropriate prevention is essential.
Fleas start from eggs, which fall off infested animals and develop into larvae and pupae indoors and outdoors. In mature stages pupae continue to develop into new adult fleas long after adult fleas on a pet are killed. Flea infestations don’t happen overnight. They usually begin 6-8 weeks before you notice a flea. That is when your unprotected pet brings fleas from the outside into your home. Once on your pet, fleas begin feeding and breeding and laying their groundwork for an ugly infestation. By the time you notice fleas on your pets there can be thousands of larvae and pupae in your home which will mature into biting adult fleas.
Some animals are allergic to fleas and can be affected by flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). This is a severe allergic reaction to flea bites. Some pets are so allergic that even a single bite can cause a reaction. FAD can be extremely irritating to animals. In severe cases, it can cause severe itching and inflammation that can lead to excessive scratching and chewing that can damage the skin. This can lead to secondary bacterial or fungal infections.
Fleas also transmit various tapeworms which can cause intestinal distress and diarrhea. For old, sick, and very young animals – especially kittens – severe flea infestations can cause flea bite anemia, a condition where the fleas remove so much blood from the animal that it becomes weak. This can be life-threatening and can kill the animal.
Monthly treatment using a flea and tick preventative on all your animals in the household will help control infestations and safeguard your pet’s health. Check with your veterinarian about the most effective treatment to use. Natural preventative treatments also exist for dogs and cats.
If your dog or cat gets fleas here are some pointers:
Call your vet. She may be able to give you a small pill called Capstar, which will kill the fleas in 30 minutes. After this treatment, bathe your animal to get rid of the dead fleas. Wait two days, then apply flea and tick preventative. If you suspect your home is infested, these fleas must be eradicated prior to taking care of the animal. A flea bomb (available from your vet) is the first step to eradicating fleas from the home. Vacuum every rug and throw out the vacuum bag afterwards. Wash all linens, and then treat your pet.
When using flea and tick preventative treatments such as Frontline, it is important to remember that there are specific formulations for dogs and cats. NEVER interchange them. Only use products meant for cats on cats and those made for dogs on dogs. It is recommended that you treat indoor cats with flea and tick prevention. You and your other animals can bring fleas and ticks indoors that can infest your indoor cat too.
It is always best to check with your veterinarian if you have any questions about flea and tick prevention and treatment for your pets.