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Flea and Ticks All Year Long

Flea and Ticks All Year Long

by Dr John Weiner - February 25, 2021

The temperature outside is well below freezing. The ground is covered with snow and ice. Local lakes, ponds and even streams are frozen over. Its been awhile since I’ve seen green grass —not to mention the challenge of getting livestock fresh water in these months. The famous woodchuck says more of this weather is yet to come —the forecast agrees with him by the way.

Obviously it is winter where we live.

Now for the not so obvious, and the reason for this post.

Fleas and ticks are ever present — year round burden on our pets, our homes and our families. Year round — 12 month flea and tick prevention is essential for healthy pets and people living with pets.

In my daily veterinary practice the most common non-routine reasons for a patient visit are “itchy skin” and “check ears”. Flea bites are always at the top of the list of causes, for both itchy skin and ear infections…whether or not live fleas are seen and regardless of the season or time of year.

Fleas and ticks are filthy, nasty parasites that burden our pets 12 months of the year. Flea eggs, larvae, and cocoons can live in even the cleanest home. No vacuum or mop is fully able to completely remove these tiny particles before they hatch into live biting fleas. When ground temperatures outside get above freezing all ticks (and especially the lyme-disease spreading ‘deer’ tick) are active and biting pests.

What if you only have a cat and that the cat never goes outside? Do you go outside? Fleas sense and are attracted to warmth, whether that warmth is your family pet or your own ankle. As the air cools in the fall months these pests can and will hitch a ride into your home. If your house-cat or dog is not protected with a product to kill adult fleas then those few fleas -that may have entered on your legs – will have found the host they need, in your unprotected house pet. Fleas don’t like to bite humans and they can’t live and reproduce from our blood…they need dog or cat blood. I regularly tell my clients, if their pets are not properly protected against fleas in the fall months then 2-3 months later that one flea that came into your home in October, as the evenings and mornings were cooler—> bit the cat one time —> then went and laid 2000-3000 eggs in your home. Yes vacuuming will keep the adult flea population under control…but I am unaware of a vacuum capable of clearing a particle the size of a flea egg 100% of the time.

Just two weeks ago, I treated a dog suffering the effects of acute lyme that had a fever of 105.4 degrees. His joints were swollen and painful. He was unable to walk or even stand. This dog was not being treated with even a weak tick preventative, let alone an effective one. Not all dogs will show the dramatic signs of ‘Acute Lyme’ that this dog presented with. Unfortunately in the past two years our area has seen a dramatic increase in the chronic kidney form of Lyme infection or “Lyme Nephritis”. These dogs can be of any age and sadly most do not survive the irreversible damage to their kidneys that results from long term repeated bites from ticks carrying lyme bacteria.

Lyme Nephritis is killing a growing number of dogs in our area and it is preventable with the use of a product capable of killing the Lyme disease causing tick within 12-24 hours of the bite.

Not all flea and tick preventatives are the same. There are two main groups at present. There is the ‘Advantage and Frontline group’ with all of the variations and generics, and I would include the Seresto collar here since that is basically ‘Advantage’ in a collar form. This group is mostly ‘Spot-ons’ or topicals. These products are numerous and contain multiple chemicals many of them on the EPA’s list of environmental toxins. Flea and tick resistance has been reported in scientific literature over the last 15-20 years which explains why companies keep adding more chemicals to their formulas.

Due to the topical nature of these common flea and tick products some of these chemicals are now being found in human drinking water.

VIN news article regarding the discovery of topical product drug residue in public water supplies.

The second group is a family of single drug products (mostly oral) that effectively kill fleas and ticks called the Isoxazolines. This class of drugs are usually administered monthly or every 12 weeks and can be given to puppies and kittens. Two brands in this class have an ‘Internal topical’ that is made for cats. (The liquid is applied to the skin but goes through the skin and works internally to poison fleas and ticks while not harming the cat).

These products are safe for use in dogs and cats. Since they are internal they will not enter the environment. The FDA has a medical label on these products regarding seizures. Many of my patients that have issues with epilepsy and seizures use this group of flea and tick control. Compared to the alternatives, the relative safety of these products and this class of drugs I believe the risk is well worth their continued use. Many clients, some of whom have dogs that suffer seizures, choose to protect their pets with fewer chemicals that are more thorough and effective against fleas and ticks.

Some dogs at high risk for tick exposure may require multiple methods for best protection: example: Bravecto every 12 weeks, Seresto collars every 6 months, and Lyme vaccination. Dogs that are in heavy tick infested forests and fields with their owners are a prime candidate for this aggressive protection plan.

Summary:
I recommend products in the Isoxazoline class to the overwhelming majority of my patients. I also believe strongly that 12 month continuous protection for every dog and cat that enters the home is the best recommendation I can make to my clients.

Fleas:

  • Fleas carry disease. (Bubonic Plaque for example)
  • Fleas are a common reason that many dogs and cats are diagnosed with ‘Allergies’.
  • Flea bites are often the reason for many recurrent dog and cat ear infections.
  • Flea bite related skin allergies and ear infections lead to year round veterinary visits that can be costly.
  • Just because you don’t see them does NOT mean they are not there and in your home and biting your dogs and cats. The adult flea has one purpose and that is to get a blood meal and lay eggs. 
  • Fleas inject the animal with saliva (spit or ‘back-wash’) and this saliva has proteins that the animal reacts to. The allergic reaction is more then a simple bug bite.
  • People can bring fleas into the home so even indoor only cats need treatment 12 months of the year to properly protect them 
  • No vacuum cleaner is powerful and effective enough to pick up the eggs, larvae and cocoon stages of fleas
  • To keep up drug companies have added more and varied chemicals to their collars and spot-on topical products to help improve the effectiveness of these flea products.
  • EPA toxin and environmental poison lists many of these chemicals 
  • City and town water supplies are being contaminated by these chemicals
  • Many of these chemicals that are made to be put on our pets for monthly protection are also found in sprays, ‘bombs’, powders, shampoos, and collars that when used with the individual animal treatments can lead to chemical overdose toxicity.

 

Ticks:

  • Ticks are a year round problem and freezing temperatures will not kill ticks.
  • Temperatures just above freezing will see active ticks.
  • Numerous tick borne diseases are in our northern Pennsylvania region, including Lyme disease. 
  • Lyme disease is a critical problem in our area of the country.
  • Dogs die from the chronic kidney failure form of Lyme disease.
  • The acute form of Lyme causes high fevers, severe joint pain and is often not noticed until the dog (and yes, cats also) won’t eat, can’t walk and cry in severe pain…often testing negative for Lyme, in this early stage of the disease.
  • Not seeing ticks does not mean the dog is not being bitten by Lyme carrying ticks. These ticks are tiny. 
  • Slow or poor tick killing products can give a false sense  of security to pet owners using spot-on products or collars.
  • Testing for Lyme annually and year round proper Lyme tick prevention products are essential for the life of the dog (and cats that spend a significant time outside).
  • Vaccination is a tool to combat Lyme in dogs, it is NOT the total answer.
  • Vaccines are NOT 100% effective against the Lyme bacteria unless the dog is on an effective tick killing product. This information comes from the vaccine companies themselves. More tick bites equal a greater chance that the vaccine will fail to stop the transmission of the bacteria that causes the Lyme disease.
  • It takes 24-36 hours to transmit the Lyme bacteria, from the tick to the dog and most topical products do not stop this transmission in less than 24 hours. 

Credits:

Writing: Dr John Weiner

Produced by Vogt Media
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