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Advice From Dr. Lindsey: Flea & Tick Prevention

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Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM

Fleas and ticks are a common pet care concern that I get frequent questions about. Fleas are wingless parasites that can persist in the environment. They feed on blood and can jump up to two feet high. Ticks are arachnids and also parasitic. They can transmit several diseases through their bite. 

Fleas cause signs such as itchy, red skin, incessant scratching, chewing, licking, hair loss, crusts on the skin, and visible flea droppings. In young puppies and kittens, they can cause anemia because they consume fifteen times their weight in blood. Fleas can cause flea bite dermatitis where the flea saliva causes the dog’s immune system to have an allergic response. Fleas can also carry diseases like tapeworms and Bartonella. Cats and dogs get tapeworms when they ingest a flea that is infected with tapeworms. Tapeworms look like grains of rice and can be seen around the hind end area of pets frequently stuck in their fur. If your pet is diagnosed with fleas, all pets in the household need to be treated. It is also very important that the house gets thoroughly cleaned including all carpet, bedding, upholstery etc. 

Ticks can be found anywhere on the body, but they particularly seem to like the head, neck, ears, and feet/toes. Ticks can spread several diseases such as Lyme, Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Anaplasma. There are tests available from your veterinarian to diagnose these diseases. It is possible for dogs to have more than one of these diseases at a time such as Lyme and Anaplasma because they are found in the same geographic region and are transmitted by the same tick species. Ticks are visible to the naked eye. They are about the size of a pin head before they bite and become engorged with blood. They may not be noticed until they are engorged. If you do find a tick on your pet, it’s important to promptly remove it making sure to get the head out. Consult with your veterinarian if you find a tick on your pet.

There are many flea and tick preventions on the market. Some are over the counter, and some are by prescription. There are oral or topical preventions. Some flea and tick preventions need to be given monthly while others last several months. Pet Honesty’s Flea and Tick Defense is a natural repellant. It helps build up daily and long-term resistance to seasonal pests with ingredients like brewer’s yeast and coconut oil. Flea and Tick Defense chews are not designed to replace other flea/tick solutions. Depending on your dog’s lifestyle and your needs or preferences, your veterinarian can help you choose a product that’s best for your pet.  

Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.