After a long, cold winter, your whole family, including your pet, is itching to get outside and banish cabin fever. But, take precautions when spending time outdoors, since fleas and ticks are also emerging from their winter hibernation. These two parasites love to take a meal from you and your pet, and can transmit a variety of diseases in the process. Avoid irritating bites and dangerous diseases by administering year-round flea and tick prevention to your furry friend.
Fleas are one of the most difficult pests to eradicate from your environment. They become especially active when temperatures rise above freezing, but they can also comfortably winter in your home. These six-legged parasites are excellent jumpers and can travel from tall grass to their victim in an instant. In North America, we mostly see cat fleas, which are not not picky when cats and dogs are on the menu, although they do prefer animals rather than people as their host. Fleas can transmit and cause your pet a variety of conditions, especially when they congregate in large numbers. If you notice your pet has a flea issue, be aware of these potential diseases:
- Bubonic plague
- Cat scratch disease
- Flea allergy dermatitis
Fleas are hardy and can survive for months without a meal. Depending on environmental conditions and temperatures, the flea can take a couple of weeks to more than a year to complete its life cycle. Fleas prefer warm climates and thrive in temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with 70 percent humidity, but they can survive and reproduce in harsher circumstances. Year-round flea prevention is key to avoid an infestation in your home and on your pet.
Colorado is home to nearly 30 tick species, with a concerning upward trend seen in three tick-borne infections in dogs: Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis. Check out the Companion Animal Parasite Council’s helpful prevalence map for more data on how these infections are spreading and growing.
If a tick bites your pet, it can take several hours to a couple of days for disease to transmit. Check after each adventure outdoors to ensure no ticks have attached to you or your pet. Tiny tick nymphs can be difficult to spot on long-coated pets, but they enjoy the body’s warmer areas, such as in and around the ears, armpits, and groin, so check those places carefully. Also check under and around the collar. If a missed tick has time to pass along an infection, look for the following signs, which can be seen with most tick-borne diseases:
- Decreased appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Lameness that may shift from leg to leg
- Painful, swollen joints that may be hot to the touch
Depending on the disease organism, an infected pet may also display bleeding disorders, neurological issues, vomiting, diarrhea, or ocular conditions. A complete history of your pet’s clinical signs, a thorough physical exam, and tick-borne disease testing is necessary to determine the disease organism responsible for illness. Some tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, never disappear from the body. The Lyme bacteria can slowly smolder in the kidneys until stress causes a flare-up, and the classic signs of Lyme disease reappear. Prevention is crucial to avoid a lifelong, chronic illness transmitted by a tick.
Flea and tick prevention
Treating your home and yard for fleas and ticks does not fully protect your pet. You must administer a monthly flea and tick preventive to ensure your furry friend is totally protected. Here are our favorite products:
- NexGard — This chewable flea and tick preventive, labeled for dogs only, is the only FDA-approved product that prevents Lyme disease infections. NexGard kills black-legged ticks infected with Lyme bacteria before they can transmit the disease to your dog. NexGard also eliminates lone star ticks, American dog ticks, and brown dog ticks. This product also kills fleas within four hours of ingestion and provides 100% protection against adult fleas for 35 days.
- Vectra — Both cats and dogs can enjoy Vectra’s protection. This topical product kills adult fleas within six hours and restricts egg, larvae, and pupae development for at least one month.
- Vectra 3D — This product, which is a topical flea and tick preventive for dogs only, creates a “hot foot” reaction that repels six different parasites. Fleas, ticks, and other parasites that come in contact with your pet’s coat or skin treated with Vectra 3D will retreat without biting and die quickly. Vectra 3D protects against fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, lice, biting flies, and mites unrelated to mange mites.
Before hitting the trails with your pet this spring, stock up on flea and tick preventive. Stop by, and we’ll find the best option for your furry friend.