Five Reasons to Keep Your Pets on Flea and Tick Prevention
For the past two years, because we did not have a hard freeze during the winter months, most of the fleas and ticks did not die. This year, we are already seeing many pets with flea and tick infestation. Fleas and tick transmit disease and cause ailments when they feed on the blood of dogs, cats, humans and small mammals. Let’s cover some important reasons for flea and tick prevention.
1. Parasitic Dermatitis
Parasitic dermatitis is an allergic skin disease caused by the bite from a flea or tick. It can cause intense itching and irritation which can lead to skin inflammation and infection. Your pet’s symptoms can become intense and may require treatment by your veterinarian. Fleas and ticks from your pets can bite humans and also cause intense itching and skin irritation.
The most common tapeworm of dogs and cats in the U.S. is Dipylidium caninum. Your pet will become infected with tapeworms by swallowing a flea while self-grooming. Dog or cat eats the flea containing the infective stage of the tapeworm, which develops into an adult in the intestines. The adult tapeworm is made up of small segments called proglottids, which break off and pass into the stool. When your dog or cat defecates, you may see small white rice looking worms or you may see dried yellowish colored “rice grains” around the anus. Most tapeworm infections do not cause significant illness. However, if they are heavily infected, your pet may lose weight, could have abdominal discomfort and scoot their bottom on the floor. Humans can get the tapeworm infection only if they ingest a flea. Children are more at risk of accidentally swallowing a flea. It is best to have good flea control to prevent these unsightly worms on your pet and around their bedding.
Bartonella are bacterial parasites transmitted by a flea or tick bites and can infect humans, dogs, cats and rodents. Bartonella invade red blood cells and cause a variety of ailments depending on the strain. One of the most common Bartonella strain is Bartonella henselae, which causes cat scratch disease (CSD). Cats become infected with Bartonella henselae can self-limit the disease or may show symptoms such as fever, vomiting, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes and decreased appetite. Infected dogs can have a wide range of ailments such as fever, heart problem, enlarged lymph nodes, or nosebleeds. If your pet has fleas or ticks and is showing clinical signs of the disease, contact your veterinarian.
CSD can also be transmitted to humans when a cat that is infected with the disease scratches a human. Human symptoms include fever, enlarged lymph nodes, scabs and infection at the scratch site. If you see these symptoms after a cat scratch, see your physician.
Ehrlichiosis a bacterial infection transmitted through tick bites. Infected dogs may have fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, bleeding disorders and neurologic symptoms. If your dog is showing these clinical signs and you see ticks on your dog, please contact your veterinarian. Dogs cannot transmit Ehrlichiosis directly to a human, but can be transmitted by a tick bite. If you are experiencing symptoms such as fever, fatigue and muscle ache, contact your physician.
5. Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that are transmitted by a tick bite. Lyme disease is most prevalent in the Northeast and upper Midwest, but cases have been reported in Texas. Symptoms can include fever, loss of appetite, lethargy and sudden onset of lameness. Because of the low prevalence in this area, Lyme vaccine is not routinely recommended. However, it is always best practice to give your pet flea and tick control especially if you are planning to travel.
As you can see, flea and tick bites are not just a nuisance. They carry disease that can cause serious illness to your pet and your family. Please make sure your pet is protected from these biting insects. You may find that many over the counter flea and tick prevention have low efficacy. Contact your veterinarian and protect your pet with an effective and safe flea and tick prevention. Have a safe and happy summer!