Microscopic Menaces—Flea and Tick Prevention for Pets

Fleas and ticks are sneaky—and disgusting—threats to your pet’s health and comfort, as well as your own. These blood-sucking parasites will happily feed on creatures both furry and flesh, potentially transmitting dangerous diseases. Protect your pet—and your entire home—from these microscopic menaces with year-round flea and tick prevention from Harbor Pines Veterinary Center. 

Small bugs, big deal—flea and tick hazards for pets

Fleas are tiny, flat, wingless insects capable of imperceptible speed and supernatural jumping. Ticks, on the other hand, are slow moving spider-cousins, who range in size from a tiny seed tick to a round, engorged adult. While you won’t be inviting this odd couple for a dinner party, and they certainly don’t look capable of mass destruction, they will likely come uninvited, and both can unleash discomfort and disease with their bite.

  • Fleas — Flea bites are irritating to pets and people. The flea’s prolific reproductive abilities mean that one flea quickly leads to an infestation—adult female fleas can lay 40 to 50 eggs per day in the pet’s environment. Every generation of young fleas can mature and return to the pet—or you—to feed, and grow the population stronger. In addition to annoyance and irritation, the most common flea health hazards include:
    • Tapeworms
    • Tularemia
    • Murine typhus
    • Bartonella
    • Cat scratch disease
    • Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which is a hypersensitivity reaction to a protein in flea saliva—one flea bite can trigger intense itching, discomfort, and secondary bacterial skin infections

  • Ticks — Ticks are heat-seeking arachnids that must feed on a host organism at each life stage. Before a tick attaches to your pet, they may have previously fed on a squirrel, deer, or possum, and picked up infectious bacteria. Common tick-borne conditions include:
    • Tick paralysis
    • Lyme disease
    • Anaplasmosis
    • Ehrlichiosis
    • Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Parasitic diseases can be crippling and significantly impact your pet’s health and wellbeing. Fortunately, transmission of these harmful pathogens can be prevented with year-round flea and tick preventives.

Every pet, every time—indoor and outdoor pets need parasite protection

All pets, including those who live strictly indoors, should receive regular flea and tick preventives. Parasites don’t wait for an invitation, and will often enter a home on the back of an indoor-outdoor pet, clothing, or shoes. Fleas can jump on a dog or cat, and ride along unseen, disguised by the pet’s thick fur. Although ticks rarely leave a warm-blooded host after they’ve climbed on, they may disembark and travel across your couch or carpet to a vulnerable indoor-only pet.

Unprotected indoor pets—especially cats—and are often the source of indoor flea infestations. Because these pets are less likely to receive a thorough once-over, owners may not find attached ticks or flea dirt (i.e., the reddish brown flea waste product) until the population is well-established or has transmitted disease pathogens.

12 months, 12 doses—year-round prevention for pets

Year-round flea and tick prevention is the only way to ensure your pet is completely protected. Because we live in a mild and relatively humid climate, fleas and ticks don’t have an off-season, and pausing your pet’s preventives increases their chances for illness and bothersome bites. Additionally, once you have skipped or forgotten a dose, you are unlikely to remember to resume your pet’s preventive.  

For the best protection, set a recurring reminder on your phone or your calendar, and dose your pet according to the product directions (i.e., every one or three months). 

The best offense—selecting preventives for your pet

The pet flea and tick preventive market is bigger than ever, and available products vary greatly in their efficacy and safety. The Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team can provide you with recommendations to match your pet’s needs, as well as your own preferences. Products are available in topical and oral formulations, and can provide protection from 30 to 120 days. 

Keeping bugs at bay—at-home pet care tips

Although some preventives include a repellant, most oral medications kill fleas and ticks only when they bite your pet. While the preventive’s speed-of-kill is fast enough to prevent disease transmission, checking your pet for visible parasites and maintaining a clean environment is still important for comprehensive protection.

  • Perform a tick-check — Give your pet a thorough once-over after outdoor activities. Carefully remove any attached ticks with tweezers, as explained here.
  • Regular grooming — Routine brushing and combing allow you to check for live parasites, skin irritations, and flea dirt.
  • Launder your pet’s bedding — Wash bedding weekly in hot soapy water to kill any parasites or eggs. 
  • Maintain your yard — Keep your grass trimmed and remove leafy debris, to discourage ticks and wildlife from hanging around your home.
  • Infestation? — Don’t panic! If you find evidence of fleas on your pet or in your home, contact Harbor Pines Veterinary Center. We can provide helpful resources for eradicating fleas from the environment, and evaluate whether your pet’s current prevention plan is adequate.   

Fleas and ticks are ubiquitous, but that doesn’t mean they have to make our pets miserable. Protect your pet and avoid unnecessary discomfort and disease with a convenient and safe veterinary-recommended parasite prevention plan. If you have additional questions about fleas and ticks, or for a personalized preventive recommendation for your pet, contact the veterinary care experts at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center.

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