By Brian Miller

With spring finally here, it means that here in Central New York, we can finally put away our boots and coats, and tuck the mittens away for another few months. Though we’ll all be happy to get outdoors to enjoy the few fleeting weeks of beautiful weather, if you are pet owner, it is important to be cognizant that flea and tick season is upon us. I spoke with Dr. Maghan Wormuth to discuss some of the key things to be mindful of over the course of the ensuing months.

Why is so important for pet owners to be aware of flea and tick season?
It is important to realize that aside from being an annoyance, these parasites can cause health issues for your pet. Ticks have the potential to carry Lyme disease, which has become prevalent in this region. Ticks can also carry Ehrlichia and anaplasmosis which are two other diseases that can afflict your dog.

As far as fleas are concerned, many dogs and cats suffer from flea allergies. These allergies may cause your pet to scratch and itch a lot, and as a result, they can suffer from dermatitis. For these reasons, it is important for your pet to remain on a flea and tick preventative year round.

shutterstock_31893043What are some of the common misconceptions about fleas and ticks?
Some people believe that fleas and ticks are only a problem in the summertime, when in actuality, they are a year-round concern. Any time temperatures rise above freezing, ticks will be out. We have seen dogs come in with ticks attached to them in January. Though fleas seem to be a huge concern in the spring and the summer, the time of year we see them the most is in the fall. Regardless of the time of year, once fleas have infested your home, it can take months to get them out. Again, this is why we stress the importance of year-round preventative.

You briefly mentioned it in one of your prior answers, but can you speak a little more about some of the major concerns associated with fleas?
We see a lot of pets who suffer from dermatitis due to having an allergy to the fleas, and this can lead to infection. Additionally, fleas can carry parasites. Many times, we see cats who are not on a preventative come in with tapeworms because they are grooming themselves constantly, and they are ingesting the parasitic fleas. We see this in dogs as well, but it is not as common.

We find that many people believe that if their cat stays strictly indoors, that they will never get fleas. Fleas can enter the home on your clothing, or on your shoes, or if you are visiting someone who has fleas in their home. Cats are so meticulous about grooming, that many times, owners are unaware their pet has fleas until they begin showing signs and symptoms. 80% of all skin problems we see in cats are the direct result of fleas. Because of this, it is very important to remember that each and every pet in your home should be on a year-round preventative. It only takes one unprotected animal to cause a flea infestation in the home, whether they go outside or not. If you have an exotic pet such as a ferret or guinea pig, you should speak to your doctor about protecting them as well.

What do you recommend for flea and tick control?
Like all medications, it depends on the animal. Whichever preventative an owner decides to try, it is important to use something that your veterinarian recommends, and to avoid over-the-counter products unless specified by a doctor. Here at Liverpool Animal Health Center, we are recommending Bravecto, which is a new oral preventative for dogs. The great thing about this product is that one tablet provides protection for 12 weeks. It is very convenient to administer, and because it is not applied directly to the skin, there is no concern that it can be washed off.

For cats we generally recommend using Revolution. This is a topical medication that not only protects cats against fleas, but provides heartworm prevention, and does intestinal parasite deworming. Unless your cat goes outdoors and has a problem contracting ticks, Revolution is what I generally recommend. If ticks become an issue, then I typically advise the client to try using Frontline Plus. Though ticks do not generally pass diseases to your cat, these parasites certainly can carry diseases that be contracted by their owners.