This topic is a bit of a broken record for a lot of vets. A good majority of us believe in “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and tick and flea prevention fall into this category. We recommend that your pets be on preventative all year long. This is not to sell products and to make money, this is for the health of YOUR pets. I’m sure you’re also probably sick of hearing about it all the time, so if you’re one of those owners that thinks you don’t need prevention year-round, or that your dog doesn’t go outside, or that you don’t want to put those toxic products on your pet, please, we beg you, read the rest of this post and for the love of your pets, consider what we have to say.
Let’s start with fleas.
First, how do our pets get fleas? Fleas can be found in almost any environment. So if your pet ever sees sunlight or feels the wind on its face, it is at risk for fleas. And those buggers are the worst. A flea bite freaking hurts! If you notice your dog is whipping around to chew his side or your cat is madly scratching itself, it’s because those little suckers bite! A lot of dogs and cats are also allergic to flea saliva, so that means they’ll be even itchier. They’ll lose fur, their skin will get thick, flaky, and red, and they will be so very uncomfortable all the time. Additionally, when pets groom or are chewing at themselves, they ingest the fleas and transmit tapeworms. Pretty gross stuff.
The last and final straw is that they are sucking the blood of your beloved pets. This is a problem, especially if your dog or cat is young, old, or already sick. They need all the red blood cells they can get. Some animals have lost so much blood due to fleas, that they have needed a blood transfusion, A BLOOD TRANSFUSION BECAUSE THEY COULD DIE FROM FLEAS. Now, I don’t mean to be dramatic, as that is not the case for most pets with fleas, but it has happened more often than it should. This is super frustrating because it is completely preventable. (Also, blood transfusions ain’t cheap!)
Speaking of not cheap, that’s just the cost to your pet. The cost to you is that you now have to go out and treat ALL of your animals because if one has fleas, they’ve all got fleas. Those fleas have also begun to lay eggs in anything that is soft and cozy - your furniture, your rugs, your clothes, your towels, all of it. So it’s a big clean up project. Vacuuming, laundry, and sometimes flea bombing your whole house. It’s not fun and gets expensive.
Let’s move on to ticks.
Ticks, just like fleas, are easily found in the environment. But let’s dispel a few myths first. Ticks do not jump. Ticks do not fly. Ticks do not hunt and chase you down. Ticks hang out on a branch or blade of grass flailing their little legs around waiting for any creature to walk on by and hitchhike. They then crawl creepily around until they find a safe spot where they are unlikely to be knocked off or noticed and settle in.
What gross things can ticks transmit? Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tick paralysis, Babesia. (Don’t worry about pronunciation, what matters is they’re all harmful and not fun.) Some, like Lyme Nephritis, can kill your pets.
Doesn’t the frost kill them? Not quite. A frost may slow those suckers down, but there needs to be a good run of days below 10͒F for them to die off, and lately, our New England winters haven’t been so predictably frozen. They also really enjoy humidity and lots of precipitation.
Let’s stop these pests.
There’s a huge variety of great products available to help prevent this creepy crawlies from feasting on Fido. From topical to chewable, talk with your vet about which would be the best option for you and your pet. [Side note, there are also a lot of generic (or knock-off) products out there so do exercise a bit of caution as to what you choose, they may come with an increased risk of toxicity.]
I don’t want to put all of those chemicals on (or in) my dog! Understandable. Now, the body can have an adverse reaction to anything. Medication, herbs, food, ANYTHING. Even though peanuts are all-natural and healthy, they are also deadly to some people. This small risk must be weighed against the possibilities of your dog coming down with any of those horrid tick-borne diseases or having a severe flea infestation (sorry, but the diatomaceous earth does just doesn’t cut it once the fleas have taken hold). This risk of adverse reactions to these well researched and tested products is relatively small. In comparison, the risk of illness or infection from ticks and fleas is much higher and the cost to treat can add up fast.
The moral of the story - please put your pets on preventative year-round. The risks are far outweighed by the benefits.