A diligent pet owner, you have your pets on a flea and tick prevention program recommended by the friendly staff at Lebanon Animal Hospital, and you dutifully purchase the products every 6 to 12 months. At the dog park, you are regarded as a Good Pet Owner. When your pet is due, you administer the medication without question becausewelleveryone knows that fleas and ticks are bad.

But, have you ever realized you don’t really know why flea and tick prevention is necessary? Fleas and ticks are so tiny, you rationalize. Your house is clean, your pets are groomed, and you’re a Good Pet Owner. What’s the big deal?  

Parasites and their baggage: Disease transmission

The big deal is the risk of many vector-borne diseases, ranging in severity from temporary nuisance to lethal and heartbreaking. The vector (i.e., the flea or tick) that transmits disease to your pet can also transmit many of the same diseases to you and your family. Let’s take a closer look at the top diseases and conditions caused by ticks and fleas.

  • Tick-borne disease Ticks carry and transmit a staggering number of diseases, with more discovered every year. Tick migration in the United States has led to tick-borne diseases appearing in previously unaffected areas. The top three tick-transmitted diseases and their prevalence in Wilson County, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, are:
    • Lyme disease (moderate risk) Lyme disease is most common in the northeast, but has been diagnosed in humans in all 48 continental states. Transmitted by the deer tick, Lyme disease causes similar signs in dogs and people, including fatigue, joint pain, lack of appetite, and swollen lymph nodes, and lameness in dogs. The hallmark bullseye Lyme disease rash is present only in people. Lyme disease has not been seen in cats outside the laboratory, but infection is still considered possible.

  • Ehrlichiosis (high risk) and anaplasmosis (moderate risk) These bacterial infections are closely related, and somewhat similar in presentation. While Ehrlichia and Anaplasma bacteria are carried by different tick species, they are both transmitted via bite, and both types invade white blood cells and enter the pet’s general circulation. Both can go unnoticed in dogs at the subclinical level. Common signs in dogs and cats include:
    • Fever
    • Lethargy
    • Loss of appetite
    • Depression
    • Weight loss
    • Joint pain/stiffness

How cats experience these infections is less known. Cats may also exhibit:

    • Trouble breathing
    • Vomiting and diarrhea
    • Pinpoint gum bruising
  • Flea-transmitted disease and conditions While fleas are infamous for their role in the bubonic plague—which still exists—midwestern pets are more likely to encounter these three conditions:
    • Tapeworms — Cats and dogs can ingest an infected flea while grooming and become infected with tapeworm larvae. When tapeworms mature, they can attach to the intestinal lining and rob the host of nutrition.

  • Bartonellosis — A bacterial infection transmitted by infected fleas, bartonellosis is a zoonotic risk, meaning that the infection can be transmitted from animals—specifically cats—to people. While cats are typically asymptomatic, signs in humans include fever and swollen lymph nodes, and muscle pain, eye infection, and brain swelling in severe cases.
  • Flea allergic dermatitis — An immunologic condition triggered by flea saliva, pets with flea allergic dermatitis (FAD) experience a hypersensitivity reaction resulting in intense itching, hair loss, and crusting lesions. For some pets, FAD signs can begin with a single flea bite.
  • Anemia — Kittens and puppies or severely ill pets overwhelmed with heavy flea infestations can become anemic from the blood loss of repeated biting. These pets are critical and require medical intervention.

Put a halt to parasite plans: A review of preventive options

Simply reading about the havoc that fleas and ticks can create may have you checking your whole world with a fine-toothed comb. Put down the comb, and remember that you likely already have everything you need to protect against disease transmission from fleas and ticks— parasite preventives!

The next time you give your pets their scheduled dose, you won’t see prevention in your hand, you’ll see power. To help ensure the optimal parasite protection for your pet, here are our current recommendations:

  • Adult dogs and cats — For simplicity, safety, and rapid flea and tick kill times, Bravecto is our choice for adult dogs and cats. Available in a flavored chewable or topical application, Bravecto provides 12 weeks of protection from fleas and four tick species. A single Bravecto dose conveniently treats the entire flea life-cycle, reducing the chance of reinfestation that may occur when doses of monthly products are missed.
  • Puppies — For puppies 8 weeks and older, we recommend Credelio. This monthly chewable preventive is gentle enough for growing puppies, with fewer active ingredients, so your pet gets only what is necessary for protection. Credelio is gentle on puppies but merciless on parasites—exactly what we like!
  • Kittens — We love Catego topical treatment for kittens, because of its cat-specific preparation and design. Catego’s safe, low volume, low-residue formula makes it easy and mess-free to apply to wiggly kittens.

We want to ensure that you always understand the reasons behind the choices you make for your beloved pets. At Lebanon Animal Hospital, our goal is always to provide the best veterinary care, and care begins with education of the caregiver. Good Pet Owners also have questions. Contact us today and let us provide you with the answers.