Fleas and ticks don’t take winter vacations, instead opting to enjoy your home’s warmth during cold weather. These opportunistic pests feed on your pet year-round, so it is critical that you do not skip a dose of flea and tick preventive. We are here to help keep your pet and your family safe.
Fleas and your pet
Fleas, one of the most common parasites we see, are hardy pests that can wreak havoc in your home and on your pet. Fleas are difficult to eliminate for the following reasons:
- Fleas have a flexible life cycle and only enter the next growth stage when conditions are ideal.
- Fleas can live in their cocoons for up to a year. They are almost impossible to eradicate at this stage, because the cocoon makes the pupae impervious to most pesticides.
- Fleas do not need food in the pupal stage.
- Adult fleas can last without a meal for a week or two.
- A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day.
- Fleas can jump more than 150 times their body length. They use this ability to find their next meal, allowing them to continue their life cycle.
Protecting your pet is key in preventing flea-borne diseases. Fleas may expose you and your pet to the following illnesses:
- Cat scratch disease
- Murine typhus
- Flea allergy dermatitis
Ticks and your pet
While the United States is home to roughly 90 tick species, we most frequently see the following five species:
- American dog tick — This tick species stays active during spring, summer, and fall, and feeds on a different animal during each life stage. The adult tick prefers dogs and people, and transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
- Lone star tick — This aggressive tick species feeds on people and dogs during all its life stages. Adults and nymphs are abundant in spring and summer, and the larvae abound in the fall. Beware of contracting ehrlichia from this tick.
- Black-legged tick — The adult black-legged tick is the only tick that causes Lyme disease. Active in late fall, early spring, and winter when temperatures rise above freezing, this species may also transmit anaplasmosis and babesiosis.
- Brown dog tick — This hardy tick species may be active year-round, feeds almost exclusively on dogs, and can transmit anaplasmosis and babesiosis. This tick may also transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever to humans.
- Longhorned tick — This Asian tick species has the unique ability to reproduce asexually. A lone female tick can produce an entire tick population. While no cases of people or pet illnesses have been documented in the United States, this tick has transmitted a variety of viruses, including anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis, in other countries. Most cases involve severe infestations of livestock, leading to stunted growth, stress, exsanguination, and death.
How to keep your pet safe from fleas and ticks
Follow these steps to keep your pet safe from fleas and ticks:
- Routinely administer veterinary-approved flea and tick prevention. We have a variety of proven oral and topical options for flea and tick prevention for your pet.
- Check your pet for fleas and ticks after outdoor adventures. Black-legged ticks must be attached for 36 to 48 hours to transmit Lyme disease, so prompt detection and removal is vital. Remove any fleas and ticks before going into your home, because once inside, they can easily hop off, reproduce, and latch onto a new victim.
- Treat all pets for fleas and ticks. Your cat may never venture even a whisker-length outdoors, but she should still be treated. Most preventives kill fleas and ticks only after they bite, so a treated pet can still carry them indoors. They can also hitch a ride on your clothing.
- Keep your yard mowed. Ticks especially enjoy long, brushy weeds and grass, so keep the yard and other vegetation trimmed short.
- Remove leaf litter from your yard, hiking trails, and campsites. Decomposing leaves are perfect flea and tick habitats and their removal reduces the number of parasites waiting for your pet.
Are you overwhelmed by the diseases fleas and ticks can transmit? Stop by our hospital—we’d love to discuss the best prevention options for your pet’s protection.