The Truth about Fleas and Ticks

Overview

It may surprise many that, for the Atlanta metro, flea and tick is a year-round concern. These pests need consistent freezing temperatures over 10 days to kill them.

Here in our Atlanta suburbs, where the weather forecast can only be described as “Summer with a slight chance of winter…..”, the fluctuating temperatures rarely stay at levels necessary to stop fleas and ticks.

In this section, we’ll discuss what to look for when assessing a flea or tick problem for your dog or cat, what possible treatments are available to help combat the situation and cover what questions you can and should discuss with the doctors at East Roswell Vet Hospital to address and manage the flea or tick concerns you might have.

The subjects we will cover include:

  • Flea and Tick Infestations and Origins (Yes, Indoor Cats too)

  • Health Issues Resulting from Fleas & Ticks

  • Preventative Medications

  • Environmental Control

  • Summary



Flea and Tick Infestations and Origins (Yes, Indoor Cats too)

Dogs spend a lot of time outdoors. Whether they are chasing that favorite tennis ball around the backyard or going for a long walk in the neighborhood park or just needing to “do their business” outside on your lawn before everyone goes to sleep for the night. That simple fact alone is the main reason why dogs are so susceptible to fleas and ticks. And for the flea or tick that’s waiting for your dog in the backyard or the neighborhood park or right outside of your front door, your dog is an opportunity to be a food source as well as a brand new home for them to live.

Once that flea or tick latches on to your dog, the only way it will stop being a nuisance is if it gets removed, dies on its own, or is killed by a medicine that you can administer on a schedule. Both fleas and ticks --- if not dealt with in a timely manner --- will eventually lay eggs which will lead to an unfortunate health scenario that you definitely don’t want for your dog, yourself or anyone else in your home for that matter. It is also important to note that ticks feed on the blood of the dog they happen to attach to. Then use tiny but very sharp teeth to burrow themselves underneath a dog's skin and tissue. Because ticks infiltrate the dog’s bloodstream, they can also spread blood-borne illnesses. The larvae of the tick are extremely small so they are easy to miss. The adult tick itself is usually visible to most of us, but the nymphs are about half that size and are very hard to seek out.

It’s a fact that both Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are transmitted by ticks to humans each year.
Conversely, many people believe that cats --- especially indoor ones --- are somehow more immune to the health challenges of fleas and ticks because they go outdoors for fewer amounts of time than dogs each day. But this is not the case. These pests may arrive into your home via visitors, shoes, bags, clothing, open windows and doors and even potting soil for plants. We often hear people not classifying their balconies and decks as “outside”. Unfortunately, cats sunning on the porch can easily become a new home for these pests.

Once a flea is on your pet, it can produce 30-50 eggs within 24 hours. These eggs are the consistency of sand and will fall off your pet in your home, land on the carpet or bedding, and eventually become an adult flea within weeks. Depending upon the stage of the tick (eggs/larvae/nymph/adult), it will feed and either climb off the pet for the next molt (molting is how ticks move from one stage of development into the next stage) or if already at the adult stage, the tick will produce eggs that can contaminate your home.

The reality is if your pet is not on a Flea and tick prevention protocol during the year then an unwanted infestation is a very real possibility. Let us know your concerns about the car and home infestations and we have products and services that we can suggest for you.


Health Issues Resulting from Fleas & Ticks

Fleas and ticks can cause a wide variety of health problems for your pet if not properly prevented or treated. These various issues could include:

  • Hair loss and mange

  • Skin infections and irritation

  • Inflamed red skin and heat bumps

  • Flakey skin and pop-up rashes

  • Risk of transmission of illness or disease to you or your dog

  • Chronic stress issues from constant biting, licking or scratching infected areas

Many diseases are carried by these pests. In the GA/AL/FL/SC/TN region (see capcvet.org for detail) we see:

  • Lyme

  • Ehrlichiosis

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever


Fleas are very itchy and annoying and will primarily cause your dog or cat to scratch. If your dog or cat is allergic to flea saliva, the itch can be insatiable.
Too much scratching can lead to skin infections and fleas on dogs and cats can possibly lead to the spread of various diseases. Fleas can be difficult to detect because they are only about 1-2 millimeters in length, but there are several ways to check for fleas on your dog or cat including:

  • Looking for red, irritated skin on the neck, belly, base of tail or hindquarters

  • Comb your pet's hair from back to front for a good look at his or her skin.

The fleas may appear red or brown in color. If you see a speck that is moving, it is probably a flea. If you notice one flea, there are almost certainly many more.

Ticks cause welts and bruises on dogs and cats around the bite location. It is also common to find the tick still attached.
We strongly recommend consulting with our East Roswell Vet Hospital staff at your next visit if you suspect a tick infestation.

Preventative Medications

There are many varieties of flea and tick prevention medications in the marketplace. The amount of remedies you can buy at your local pet store alone has grown exponentially over the past 20 years. Many of these over-the-counter products are only marginally effective and are not recommended by veterinarians.

Unfortunately, a high volume of flea treatments for dogs and cats --- specifically topical treatments --- that were never officially approved for purchase by any government agency. In the early 2000s, this led to the EPA issuing an official warning about possible toxic side effects from certain over-the-counter flea medicines.

As with any medication, there is some risk of adverse reactions to flea and tick treatment. These risks are extremely small.

There are various methods for treating ticks on dogs and cats including:

  • Oral Medications

  • Topical Treatments

  • Tick Collars

Oral Medications: These are a great choice for both prevention and treatment of fleas and ticks while being safe for both your dog, your cat, and your family. Prescription oral medications can only be obtained from a doctor.

Topical Treatments: Topical treatments are typically applied to cats. There are many different topical treatments with varying effectiveness and different spectrums of use. At your next veterinary appointment, our medical team will help you choose the most effective topical flea and tick treatment for your cat.

Tick Collars: Tick collars are occasionally recommended based on your pet’s specific lifestyle but their efficacy is not as comprehensive as prescription medications.

Many years ago, flea collars, sprays, powders, and shampoos were the maintain stay of flea control. These products are more toxic and less effective than the majority of products we now recommend.

For this reason, we do not recommend any of these products. However, medicated shampoos can be very helpful in treating the secondary skin infections that your dog or cat may have developed due to flea infestation.

Environment Control

The fleas that you see on the pet is the tip of the iceberg. There may be a significant infestation in your pet’s environment and in your home.
We can offer you products to fumigate your areas of concern and destroy the eggs before they hatch and replicate.

Summary

If you suspect your dog or cat is suffering from the unfortunate effects of fleas and ticks, we recommend scheduling a veterinary appointment immediately.

With a proactive plan and preventative medicines, a flea and tick outbreak can be easily avoidable thereby keeping your dog, your cat, and your entire family safe from illness all year round.

We know the thought of flea and tick infestations can be frightening and overwhelming, but we assure you they are completely treatable. We are here to help you design a comprehensive flea and tick prevention protocol that will fit your current needs, lifestyle, and budget. So, give her a call today! Your pet will thank you.

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