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Outsmart Fleas and Ticks with the Right Prevention for your Pet

10/11/2018 06:00AM | 7277 views

Fleas and ticks love to make themselves at home in your house. They might be there even when you can’t see them. Many pet owners think they only need to worry about these pests in seasonal or warm weather, but thanks to our warm winter accommodations, both fleas and ticks can be active year-round. 

So, it’s important to make your pet and your home as inhospitable to these unwanted guests as possible, all year long.

Banfield Pet Hospital veterinarians Dr. Jesus Aramendi in Orlando, FL and Dr. Jovanna Radillo in Carmichael, CA both encourage their clients to use year-round flea and tick prevention based on a pet’s lifestyle, health and home environment – throughout their pet’s life.

Prevention helps your pets and your family.

Dr. Aramendi emphasized flea and tick prevention is not just about preventing discomfort. Unfortunately, these all-too-common parasites pose real risks of disease to your pets and your family. 

Fleas are tiny parasites that live on the blood of mammals, consuming roughly 15 times their weight in blood each day. The most common external parasite in dogs and cats, fleas can cause itchy, painful irritation and can give your pet tapeworms, cause anemia and more. Some pets are allergic to flea bites, and over the past 10 years, Banfield has seen a significant increase in flea-allergy cases in its hospitals.

Anyone exposed to a flea is susceptible to bites, especially when you come in contact with an infested dog, cat or home. Chances are if one pet in the house has fleas, so do any others that aren’t current on flea prevention. That’s why all dogs and cats should be treated. Read here for more on fleas.

Ticks, on the other hand, are small arachnids (relatives of spiders) that live by sucking blood from mammals, including humans. These creepy-looking pests can transmit illnesses like Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to pets andpeople. Once a tick bites your pet, it can stay attached for up to 10 days. 

Ticks thrive in woodlands, tall grasses and forests, but have been reported in every state and climate throughout the United States. Dr. Radillo reports she’s seen ticks on her pet patients that haven’t traveled any farther than their local dog park. Even if you don’t live near the woods, it’s still important to protect your pets from ticks. Read here for more on ticks. 

How to choose the right prevention for your pet.

Prevention is as easy as getting into a routine of applying a topical (“spot-on”) or giving your pet a chewable once a month or every three months, depending on the product. Banfield recommends setting a recurring reminder for a specific day and time to help ensure it becomes a routine you’re more likely to remember and keep.

Many preventive options exist, and Dr. Aramendi acknowledges the wide range of available products can prove overwhelming and confusing. “Every year there’s a new product – a topical that lasts 30 days, a topical that also combats mosquitos, tablets that last up to three months.” 

That, and recent trends toward natural remedies also come with some cautions and considerations. “With the trend toward organic, products labeled ‘natural’ can seem healthier, but they are not necessarily scientifically proven to be effective,” Dr. Aramendi says. In fact, some natural remedies contain ingredients that are harmful to pets. For instance, flea control products advertising chrysanthemum oil and claiming to be safe and naturally effective contain pyrethrins, an ingredient that can cause significant toxic reactions in cats and some dogs. 

As such, it’s important to always consult your veterinarian before starting your pet on any type of medication, including a flea/tick preventive. Veterinarians are best suited to recommend products that are FDA-approved, have been scientifically proven to work, and are safest and most appropriate for your individual pet based on their unique needs and lifestyle.

How to prevent fleas and ticks in your home and yard.

When it comes to fleas and your pet, preventive care is far preferred to treatment. 

In general, Banfield advises that year-round parasite prevention is a best practice and can ultimately save time, money and ailments related to ridding your pet and home of a flea infestation. By the time you start to notice signs of flea infestation, your pet will already be suffering the effects of fleas, and you will probably already have flea eggs in your carpet and furniture. Once your home is infested, it can take several months to clear your house of fleas.

In addition to year-round prevention, Banfield also recommends twice-yearly comprehensive exams that include parasite screenings to look for fleas and any other visible external parasite or skin problem. 

To make your yard less friendly for ticks, Banfield offers these tips: 

  • Keep your lawn mowed and all other vegetation cut short.
  • Remove leaf litter from under shrubs.
  • Treat yard with an outdoor tick-control pesticide.
  • Avoid tall grasses, dense shrubbery and wooded areas when out with your pet.
  • Perform a tick check of your pets’ fur and skin after they've been outside. Pay special attention to the ears, groin area, tail and between the toes.
  • Regularly run a flea comb over your pet's coat.

Signs of fleas and ticks and the diseases they can cause include scratching, excessive grooming, bald patches, decreased appetite, fever, lethargy or depression. The good news is, you can protect your pet from these unpleasant pests with year-round, uninterrupted prevention. If you find fleas or ticks on your pet or think they have either parasite, consult your veterinarian for help and treatment. 

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