April 2011 - Parasite Prevention | Care First Animal Hospital

Dr. Bethany Riego discusses the importance of flea and tick prevention

Why is flea and tick prevention necessary?

We recommend flea and tick prevention for various reasons. First and foremost, the goal is to help protect your loved furry friends from contracting tick or flea transmitted diseases such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis, Babesia, Mycoplasma (or Haemobartonella), and tapeworms. Not only can our pets get diseases, but we all know how itchy they can get if they have fleas! Additionally, preventatives for your pet also help protect you! Nobody wants fleas or ticks in your house – both because they are a nuisance as well as because we too can get some of these diseases. You may be most familiar with Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Many of these diseases are more common in New England, but we have seen them here in North Carolina too!

It’s cold in the winter; do I really have to use flea prevention year round?

Yes! For fleas to be killed, we really need a 10 day stretch of weather 37 degrees or cooler. As you know, we in NC don’t typically see that kind of weather. Not only that, if even one flea has hijacked a ride on your pet and is living in your house, it will never get cold enough to kill it in your house! So not only do you need to use prevention in the winter, but most people don’t realize that fleas love the spring and fall as well as the summer. Fleas love 70 degree weather and easily reproduce during these times. North Carolina also provides the humidity that they love to live in!

What are the different types of prevention that are available?

There are both topical (liquid that is placed on the skin) and oral products (pills). There are products that kill just fleas as well as both fleas and ticks. I recommend the products that kill both fleas and ticks given that our North Carolina environment is far too friendly to both of these parasites. Currently, the oral products we have just treat fleas. However, I highly recommend their use along with the flea and tick combination products for pets that are active swimmers, have allergies to fleas, or live in heavy flea environments. This provides an added “inside-out” barrier to help protect them. At this time, all of our preventative products need to be re-dosed monthly.

What are the benefits of one type over another?

The advantages of the topical preventatives are that you can get ones that protect against fleas AND ticks. The disadvantage to them is that, since they rely on the skin oils, they may not be as effective if your pet is frequently swimming or being bathed.

The advantage of oral flea prevention is that it is unaffected by swimming or bathing, and it helps give additional protection when combined with topical preventions. The disadvantage is that at this time, the pills don’t protect against ticks, so don’t forget to add something else to make sure they are protected!

I feel a little weird about the idea of putting pesticides on my pet, are there any inherent dangers to using flea and tick prevention?

Many people are trying to approach life in a very natural and chemical-free way. However, remember that there are risks in NOT preventing fleas and ticks. Pets – as well as humans – can get many diseases, which can cause pain, sickness, or even rarely, death. The flea and tick preventatives that we recommend are absorbed only through the skin layer. This means that your pets’ vital organs are unaffected. Additionally, veterinary-approved products go through extensive testing and safety studies. These products are thus tested and proved to be extremely safe – at many times the recommended dose! Once dried, these products are safe even if in contact with other animals, people, and children. One tip, if you’re worried, is to apply the product at night so it can dry by morning!

Just make sure you buy veterinary approved products as well as products that are appropriate for your pet’s weight and species. For example, many products are not safe for cats, and it is important to read the label and specify whom they are for when buying them so we can help you if needed.

Be careful about using holistic and natural remedies as well because they are usually less effective and less safe for your pet. Remember that something can be natural AND toxic! (Just think: there are poisonous mushrooms, plants, metals, molds, etc which are all natural!) Please ask us if you have questions about a product, and we are happy to help determine if it is something that is safe for your pet.

Going to the grocery store is much more convenient, why do you recommend that I purchase products from a veterinarian instead of just from the store?

We know how difficult it can be add a stop at the clinic to your list of errands; however, we recommend the products we carry because they have been tested and proven to be safe and effective. Many of the over the counter products do not undergo such rigorous testing. Additionally, they can contain permethrins, which can be toxic to cats – even the products marketed for cats! Over the counter products are also typically less effective in controlling fleas or ticks. Flea collars usually only protect the area around the neck–which is not very helpful in that fleas love living in the area right over the tail. Flea and tick shampoos are also not as safe, and their effects don’t last more than several days. Some of these products are not proven to be as safe for us to be handling either!

As with any product we carry, one of the great benefits to choosing something from Care First Animal Hospital is that we are an available resource for you. Your pet’s lifestyle may lend itself to a specific product that we can help you choose! For example, if your pet is a big swimmer, lives in a heavily wooded area, or is allergic to fleas, we may help you choose a specific product aimed at those needs.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about flea and tick prevention?

If you do have a flea problem, remember that you have to treat the environment as well. Many times we apply flea and tick preventatives and then wonder why several weeks later, we are still seeing parasites. Fleas will hatch out approximately every 3 weeks. And by the time you see adult fleas on your pets, they have already laid eggs in your house and the environment your pet sleeps in. Thus, you will need to treat the environment as well so as to tackle the whole problem.

Ultimately, our goal is to help keep you happy and your pet safe!

We love our jobs because we like to preserve the relationship between you and your pet. This is one of the ways we can help keep your pet healthy and pleasant to cuddle!

Dr. Bethany Riego mainly treats pets at our Care First at Glenwood facility. She worked with us a technician prior to attending North Carolina College of Veterinary Medicine and has been a doctor with us for almost 3 years. If you have further questions regarding flea and tick prevention please email Dr. Riego at briego@carefirstanimalhospital.com.

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