Add complete, 24/7 vet care
One time Fuzzy consult
The last thing pet parents want to see in their dog or cats’ fur is small, black, biting pests. Though some pet parents may think protection against fleas or ticks is only needed during the spring and summer months, “flea season” isn’t a thing. Fleas and ticks are uniquely adapted to living inside the home during all seasons. Though they are regionally more intense during some months, they never fully go away. Year-round protection is recommended by vets to protect pets against the illnesses they can transfer.
While pets may be allergic to bug bites, skin itchiness and allergic reactions are only a small part of what pet parents should be concerned about. Fleas, ticks, mosquitos, mites, and biting pests may pass on many nasty diseases. These diseases can cause serious and expensive health issues for pets and pet parents. The majority are entirely avoidable.
Some of the most common diseases spread by fleas include:
Murine typhus - While this disease typically affects rats, fleas can spread the disease to other animals after coming into contact with an infected rodent.
Cat scratch disease (CSD) - A cat that gets bitten by an infected flea can spread the disease to its human companions.
Tapeworms - Dogs and cats can get tapeworms if they accidentally eat an infected flea. Most pet parents notice this disease when they see signs in their pet’s feces.
Ticks can also spread several different diseases, including:
Lyme disease - Lyme disease can lead to joint stiffness, fever, loss of appetite, and sensitivity to touch.
Anaplasmosis - This is a bacterial tick-borne disease that can affect either the platelets or the white blood cells. Symptoms may include lethargy, fever, joint pain, and seizures.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) - Another bacterial disease, RMSF can lead to symptoms such as fever, joint pain, and vomiting. Untreated, it can also result in permanent damage to a pet’s body.
Tick paralysis - Tick paralysis isn’t caused by bacteria. Instead, it’s a reaction in an animal’s body to a tick’s saliva. The parasite’s saliva contains a neurotoxin that can prevent voluntary movements.
The effectiveness of different treatments against fleas or ticks depends on a variety of factors, first among them is whether a pet parent is dealing with an ACTIVE infestation or attempting to PREVENT an infestation. The ingredients or treatment options will vary based on the severity and urgency.
Treating the infected pet alone is rarely enough to eliminate an active infestation. Within 24 hours of their first bite, fleas can begin laying eggs. Deep cleaning the home and treating all pets of the household is essential to preventing the eggs or larva from maturing into adult biting fleas. In some extreme cases, an exterminator may be required in addition to treatment.
Oral Prescription and Over The Counter (OTC) meds vary, utilizing a variety of active ingredients. Fuzzy’s vets recommend Capstar, a short-term chew, for treatment against active infestations or latched-on pests.
Medicated shampoos can help rid a pet’s fur of adult bugs as well as eggs. Active ingredients are safe and help to reduce skin inflammation where bitten.
Most vets do not recommend flea-bombing the house. Aerosolized chemicals may kill pests, but aren’t always safe or secure for the pets still in the home. If an infestation has come indoors and steam cleaning or bleach-scrubbing the fibers or dusty parts of the home haven’t helped, contact a professional exterminator.
Similar to a fly trap, insects are attracted by the heat and either get zapped or stuck to the mat. These can be effective options for mudrooms or covered areas near the home to prevent infestations from getting inside, however, they are not foolproof in helping pets avoid bites.
Once pet parents eliminate the flea infestation, the next (or first) step is preventing a new one. One of the best ways to do just that is by applying a monthly flea and tick preventative treatment. These treatments repel pests, keeping them from biting and reproducing in the first place.
Topical treatments, liquid solutions applied to the back of a pet’s neck beyond their licking reach, are shown to be more than 89% effective against most flea and tick types. They are the most widely recommended solution by vets, by prescription, or as over-the-counter solutions, and use a variety of active ingredients.
Topical treatments remain in the skin and fat layer of the pet and are not absorbed into the bloodstream, meaning they, therefore, do not pose notable risks to liver, kidney, or heart health. For affordable and effective topical treatment, Fuzzy vets recommend Effipro Plus for monthly treatment.
How to apply a topical treatments for dogs:
How to apply a topical treatments for cats:
Oral chews vary in their effectiveness specifically tied to their active ingredients. In the same study referenced above, oral treatments were found to be 99% effective against fleas and ticks, and treatment duration varies between daily preventative chews and monthly. For natural flea and tick preventative chew and supplement options, Fuzzy vets recommend Texas Pet Co for daily prevention.
Flea collars last longer than most other flea and tick prevention treatments but do not come without risk. Flea collars emit a chemical to ward off fleas or ticks, but this chemical can occasionally poison a pet if inhaled or ingested. Some have faced recall.
Flea and Tick preventative sprays tend to be less effective and work for a shorter term. They use similar active ingredients to topical treatments or natural oils like peppermint or eucalyptus. These treatments are not waterproof and are typically only effective for a couple of hours, for single trips outside. If a pet parent is wary of a topical or prescription med treatment a spray is a bare minimum treatment option to keep pets somewhat protected before venturing outdoors to a flea or tick environment.
As more and more pet parents experiment with flea and tick preventative meds, nature will inevitably adapt. Some flea and tick prevention treatments effective in some areas may not be effective against fleas or ticks in other areas. Ongoing effort and prevention are needed to keep pets healthy through all seasons, and veterinarians are the most credible medical professionals to recommend what is best for pets based on the most recent research and science. Prescriptions or OTC topicals are still a pet parent’s best defense against biting pests.
Fleas and tick bites make pets’ skin itchy, irritated, and damaged. The ensuing scratching can cause bald patches, bleeding, or infections. By extension, fleas, ticks, and other biting pests make pet parents annoyed and miserable, too. Without quick treatment, the insects can take up residence in the home and start infesting other pets, making the situation exponentially worse. Pet parents do best when their pets are treated with preventative care, and when active infestation meds are kept in the medicine cabinet just in case.
If a pet parent is still wondering how to get rid of fleas or which flea and tick treatment is the best and safest for their pet, the Fuzzy Veterinary Support Team can make recommendations. Download the Fuzzy app or become a member to connect with Fuzzy's veterinary support.