Fleas are the other parasite that starts to affect our pets in warmer weather. These insects become mobile, seeking a warm meal when there are a couple days above 60 degrees. Fleas survive the cold winter by hiding on wildlife or by staying dormant in the pupae stage in the environment until the weather warms up.
The most frequent issues we see with fleas in our practice is the itching and skin allergies they can cause when they bite our cats or dogs. This skin irritation can get severe in some cases and result in all over fur loss and deep skin infections. Tapeworms are another parasite transmitted when pets grooming themselves eat a flea.
Fleas can be much more difficult to get rid of than ticks, as they quickly set up an infestation in the home. The most important thing to know about a flea invasion is that you need to treat every pet in the home simultaneously and usually for multiple months before the issue is resolved. Many years ago, the only way to treat fleas in the home was chemical bombs and sprays that treated fleas in the environment but did not treat the pet directly. Thankfully, in the past several decades, the medications available to us have come a long way and now we treat the pet directly to become a flea-killing device in the home. Along with treating the pet, regular home cleaning can reduce flea eggs and larvae in the home before they hatch into adults.
Occasionally we see cats that do not go outside at all pickup some flea passengers. Fleas are very active parasites and can come in from outside (on our clothes or other pets) when the opportunity presents itself.
There are several products available to help keep these vermin away from our furry friends. Over the past several decades, a wide variety of topical and chewable medications have been developed for quicker and safer control of fleas and ticks. Which preventative works best for your personal pet can depend on lifestyle, other medical conditions your pet has, and what products you have used in the past. All veterinarians can discuss flea and tick preventative options and which may be the best fit for your dog or cat. Generally the products sold at a veterinary clinic have a better track record of safety and efficacy than some over-the-counter products.
A common misconception we hear from owners is that flea shampoos or traditional flea collars will resolve an issue. Shampoos will kill adult fleas on a pet but does nothing to prevent them from getting fleas on them after the bath is done. Traditional white flea collars will not prevent fleas from getting on the pet away from where the collar sits. As a rule, cats are much more sensitive to certain pesticide ingredients than dogs so never use a product labeled for a dog on a cat.
Much more information about fleas, ticks, and medications can be found at: www.capcvet.org under the “flea” and “tick” headings listed alphabetically.