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No matter how well you care for your pet, they will inevitably come into contact with a flea or tick while they are outdoors, going for a walk, or simply playing in the yard. As warmer weather is approaching, the risk of flea and tick bites or infestations is only increasing, and consistent preventative treatment for fleas and ticks remains the best way to keep both your pets and your home safe. Both fleas and ticks can be found worldwide, with fleas preferring humid and shady areas such as under leaf cover, and ticks commonly being found in areas with woods, shrubs, weeds, and tall grasses. Both fleas and ticks can also latch onto other animal hosts such as deer, foxes, rodents, raccoons, and birds. As these ideal locations and conditions for both ticks and fleas are often where our pets enjoy playing and exploring outdoors, ensuring our four-legged friends are well protected against both perpetrators is crucial, as the medical consequences for flea and tick bites can be irritating and uncomfortable at best, and deadly or requiring major medical intervention at worst.
Both fleas and ticks can cause two specific problems, the first being irritation and discomfort from their bites and sometimes severe allergic reactions in both people and pets. The second being the diseases they carry that can infect both pets and their owners. The most common flea of North America can transmit murine typhus, flea-borne spotted fever, cat-scratch disease (bartonellosis), and flea tapeworms (fleas are the most common cause of tapeworms in pets). Each tick species is known to transmit specific infections disease, including but not limited to: Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Rickettsiosis. Some of these diseases can be deadly, while others can cause severe, chronic, and lifelong illness. This is why flea and tick prevention is key to keeping both pets and their families happy and healthy as there are only treatment options for some of these flea and tick-born diseases, they are not always a guarantee, and can be very expensive.
There are many different products for preventative flea and tick care on the market today, ranging from flea collars and topical flea and tick medications to oral medications. By maintaining a regular flea and tick prevention schedule you are not only keeping your pets safe but are also avoiding any serious health problems and higher costs later on. There are also no vaccines for tick-born illnesses currently, so preventative measures are the best way to make sure your pet has what they needs to stay safe while they roll around in your backyard. Performing regular flea and tick checks on your pets, especially after walks or when in a new outdoor environment, can also help prevent any disease or infestations in your home. Fleas prefer the head and neck area of cats, and the rump and tail area of dogs, and can be seen by running a flea comb through your pets fur, looking for both live fleas as well as flea waste and eggs. Wiping your flea comb on a damp paper towel is a good test to see if you are looking at dirt or possible flea infestations as the flea dirt will appear red on the paper towel. Ticks can vary in size and can also attach anywhere on the body, but prefer dark and hidden areas like the ears, armpits, groin, tail, and between the toes. There are specific tick-removing tools that make the removal of ticks easier, and the quicker you can get the tick off of your pet, the less likely any disease or irritation will be passed from the insect to your pet.
Make speaking with your vet about the best flea and tick preventative measures for your pets a priority this Spring and you will be able to enjoy the warm weather with your furry friend without having to worry about what may be lurking under a leaf nearby.