Pests are pests for pets not only in summer

Once thought of as summertime pests only, we now know that fleas and ticks can survive throughout the year, especially during their immature stages when they are so small they are almost impossible to see. By finding protected areas in our homes such as crawl spaces, attics, and porches, as well as the deep fibers of sofas and bedding, fleas and ticks can avoid cold and severe weather, and overwinter through difficult environmental conditions.

The flea and tick life cycle

Fleas can lay up to 40 eggs each day in a pet’s fur. The eggs quickly fall off, and go through multiple immature stages where they land, until they become adults. Adult fleas can detect the heat from a nearby person or animal, which stimulates them to jump onto the individual, bite, and lay eggs if they are female. Then, the cycle starts anew. The tick life cycle is similar, although unlike fleas, which metamorphose into larvae and pupae before becoming adults, ticks begin as nymphs (i.e., young, small ticks) and simply keep growing larger.

Out and about—fleas, ticks, and pets

Fleas are equally active year-round in more than half of the U.S. states, and more active during warmer months in the remaining states, but present year-round. Although ticks are not always as active throughout the year as fleas, they transmit serious diseases that warrant a strong year-round defense. These include Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, some of which can also affect humans. Treating your pet who is flea-allergic or who becomes ill with one of these diseases costs much more than preventionanother reason to protect your pet year-round.

Environmental control of pests to help your pet

Your environmentindoors and outdoorsmust also be kept flea- and tick-free to help shield pets. Using year-round flea and tick prevention products helps keep these pests not only off pets, but also out of your surroundingsa definite advantage, since environmental infestations are challenging to control.  

Pets suffer not only itchy skin

Flea bites aren’t only itchy. Fleas ingest blood with each bite, and can cause anemia in your pet if large numbers bite. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms and some serious diseases, including Bartonella and Mycoplasma haemofelis. Many dogs and some cats develop a flea allergy, which can be triggered by a single flea bite, and is usually a reaction to the flea saliva.

But I don’t see any fleas on my pet?

Surprisingly, fleas are almost never seen. Owners of  flea-allergic dogs are frequently unaware that fleas are causing their pet’s discomfort, because they don’t find fleas or flea dirt (i.e., small, black spots of flea feces in the fur), despite an intensive search. This is because a single flea bite  immediately results in pruritus (i.e., itchiness), and a flea-allergic pet will frantically lick and scratch. As a result, the flea jumps off, or is ingested by the pet. Unfortunately, that single bite can set off an allergic reaction that persists long after the bite heals, and completely eliminating fleas through a year-round prevention protocol is the only way to permanently control your pet’s suffering. Our Gentle Touch Animal Hospital team can develop a parasite prevention plan tailored specifically to your pet.

Options for year-round flea and tick prevention

Flea and tick preventives include pills, chewable tablets, and topical formulations. Depending on the product, action duration varies, with some products requiring monthly treatment and others every three months. The preventives eradicate the parasites at multiple life-cycle stages, thus ensuring complete suppression. Research has shown that pet owner satisfaction is higher for longer-duration products and ease of use, which increases the likelihood that pets will have better parasite protection. Prevention products can be purchased in formulations specific to your pet’s weight, so accurate dosing is easy. Another benefit is that some flea and tick preventives also protect against roundworms or heartworms. In addition, all veterinary prescription-only products have been extensively tested for effectiveness and safety. 

Most U.S. veterinarians recommend year-round flea and tick prevention, as does the Companion Animal Parasite Council, an independent, non-profit organization that provides up-to-date parasite-control information and guidelines to pet owners and veterinarians.

Year-round protection ensures your beloved pet will not suffer from the misery of flea bites, flea allergies, or flea- and tick-transmitted diseases, and also will keep your home and yard parasite-free. Call us at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital to schedule your pet’s next preventive visit, and talk to us about their best flea- and tick-prevention options.