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Fleas & Ticks

Author: Dr. Sarah Bruhl, DVM

As we finish summer and start up a new school year, we start to think about fall weather and upcoming holidays. And the cooler temperatures may have us thinking that we don’t need to be as vigilant about flea and ticks for our pets. But we couldn’t be more wrong! Fleas and ticks are actually more active in the fall than in the heat of the summer. And fleas can even survive in our homes (and on our pets) over the entire winter! Monthly flea and tick preventatives are especially important for both dogs and cats during these times.

Fleas are often a pet owner’s worst nightmare. They can infest not only our pets but also our homes, not matter how clean they are. It is much easier to prevent fleas from getting on our pets with regular use of monthly preventative products, than to try to treat an infestation in your house. Once the fleas get on your pet and are brought into the home, the female will begin to lay eggs – up to 50 per day! So once the eggs hatch within two weeks, you have MANY immature fleas. The complete life cycle of the flea can take up to 3 months, depending on the heat, humidity, and other conditions in the house. So it can take many months of house treatments, baths, and flea treatments to get rid of the infestation. Meanwhile they are biting both you and your pets! You can recognize fleas as dark brown insects scurrying on your pet’s skin. Dogs and cats will often bite at their fur or legs, and possibly lose hair, especially around the base of the tail and the neck. In severe cases, and in the very young and small pets, fleas can actually cause blood loss (or anemia), and can even lead to death!

While fleas can be an itchy hassle, ticks are much more likely to carry disease. And often we don’t know when we have been bitten by a tick. Many people and most pets never develop the tell-tale “bulls-eye” rash after a tick bite.  Ticks can transmit many diseases, with a wide range of symptoms, including limping, bruising, lethargy, and flu-like symptoms. While ticks won’t “move” into your house during the winter months, dogs and cats can easily carry them into the house, where they can bite humans as well. Ticks are active most of the year, and surprisingly love the cooler winter months. Unless there is snow cover on the ground, ticks are looking for their next victim.

The good news is that products for flea and tick prevention have become more effective and easier to use than ever. Many options are available on the market, but ask your veterinarian for the best product to use for your pet’s lifestyle.

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