The reasons to keep your pet free of fleas and ticks go beyond the nuisance factor.
No one wants to sit down to cuddle with the family cat or dog, only to have a flea crawl across their hand. Preventing flea and tick infestations reduces those types of “ew” encounters—and also has many health benefits for your pet and, as it turns out, for you and your family.
Fleas and ticks can pose health risks to cats, dogs and humans. You might have heard of Lyme disease (transmitted by ticks) and tapeworms (passed by fleas), but the creepy bugs can pass other diseases to cats and dogs, which they can pass to you in turn.
Some of the zoonotic diseases transmitted by fleas include cat scratch fever, bacterial infections (such as typhus or Mycoplasma haemofelis) and plague, among others. Ticks can transmit ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
And those don’t include the conditions your pet can suffer without transmitting them to you. Just one bite from a flea can cause flea allergic dermatitis, an allergic reaction to flea saliva. The allergy typically causes persistent itching and scratching, which can result in hot spots and other skin infections. Enough scratching and licking of the itchy spots can lead to bacterial infections of the skin.
Luckily, you can take steps to prevent fleas and ticks from biting your pet in the first place. Manufacturers offer a range of pest prevention products, from spot treatments to oral medications. To keep your pet pest-free, talk to your veterinarian about over-the-counter and prescription flea and tick preventive products to determine which product is best for your pet and your household. Keep these tips in mind:
- Use only those products that are EPA-registered (for pesticides) or FDA-approved (for medications).
- Talk to your vet before using a “spot” treatment on your pet’s skin or fur.
- Read the entire label of a product before using it, and always follow the label directions.
- Never use products intended for dogs on a cat.
- Pay close attention to the weight scale on the product’s label. Your pet’s weight matters when using flea and tick prevention products. Too much product could harm your pet.
- Watch your pet closely for signs of an adverse reaction to a flea- or tick-control product. Contact your vet immediately if your pet shows signs such as vomiting, excessive itching or scratching, anxiousness, or skin redness or swelling.
A few preventive steps taken today can help your pet avoid the discomfort of fleas and ticks this summer—and can help protect both you and your pet from health risks.
About the Author: Stacy N. Hackett is an award-winning writer with more than 25 years’ experience in the pet industry. She is the former editor of Pet Product News and a former staff editor with Cat Fancy, Cats USA, Critters USA and Ferrets USA. To learn more about her work, visit stacynhackett.vpweb.com.