We’ve all heard the saying, “Prevention is the best medicine.” This is so important to remember when protecting our pets from freeloading parasites like fleas and ticks. These parasites transmit many serious diseases that can infect our pets and ourselves – and can even be fatal. In fact, the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends that all dogs and cats be treated year-round with flea and tick control products throughout their lives.
There can be a misconception that pets don’t need flea and tick medication during winter months, but every pet deserves to be protected every month – you never want a lapse in efficacy. After all, many pet owners travel with their pets throughout the year and the weather is always changing.
Plus, the alternative to prevention – infestation – is grim. Take fleas, the most common parasite for dogs and cats in North America1 (there are over 2,000 species of fleas worldwide!), for example. According to MyPet, the flea life cycle lasts approximately three months and consists of the following stages:
Stage 1: Adult fleas bite your pet, enjoy a “blood meal” lasting up to two and a half hours2, and lay eggs (around 40-50 each day). A single flea can live on your pet for nearly two months!
Stage 2: The eggs hatch as larvae in 1-10 days and burrow into your carpet, floorboards, furniture upholstery, and pets’ bedding.
Stage 3: Flea larvae mature into pupae. They live inside tiny cocoons and can stay dormant for a long time, waiting to emerge as adults in response to heat, movement, or carbon dioxide. They are resistant to drying and insecticides.
Stage 4: Newly emerged adults wait for your dog or cat to get close enough to hitch a ride and start the life cycle over again. They start feeding within five minutes.
Killing fleas before they can lay eggs can prevent an outbreak in your home that can take months to eliminate, so use a product that kills quickly throughout the duration of the product. Once you have an infestation it is easiest to use a product that continues to kill throughout the flea life cycle.
Most tick-borne diseases are transmitted through a tick bite and are not limited to infecting dogs. Although pet owners can vaccinate their dogs against Lyme disease, this does not completely protect a pooch. Consider the four types of ticks we need to fight:
Blacklegged Tick, aka, “Deer Tick” (Ixodes scapularis): This parasite is routinely found in at least 35 states across the United States. It feeds on deer, small animals, birds, reptiles, dogs, cats, and humans, and may cause Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis.
American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis): Found in over 40 states, this tick feeds on mice, voles, raccoons, cats, dogs, and humans. It may cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia.
Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus): In contrast to other tick species, the brown dog tick is capable of living indoors through its entire life cycle. It feeds on dogs and small mammals in 49 states, including Hawaii. It can cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and infectious canine cyclic thrombocytopenia.
Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum): This species feeds on cats, dogs, birds, deer, and large animals – including humans – and is most prevalent in the Midwest, southern plains, and the eastern United States. It may cause ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and cytauxzoonosis.
Why take the risk of your dog getting fleas and ticks that can carry disease? If you haven’t already, talk to your veterinarian about protecting your pets year-round from fleas and ticks to help keep everyone in your home healthy and happy.