An important part of pet ownership is control of fleas and ticks. These parasites are annoying, but they also present the potential for disease transmission for dogs and cats and even people. Ticks can carry diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme, Ehrlichia, and more. Dogs can develop tick paralysis, which is a generalized muscle paralysis associated with a toxin in tick saliva of affected ticks. Even one attached tick that is carrying the toxin can paralyze a large dog. Fleas can transmit organisms that cause infectious anemias in cats, and Bartonella, which can affect cats and dogs. Flea allergy leads to extreme itching, even in the presence of just a few fleas.
The choice of what products to use to control fleas and ticks in dogs and cats has become overwhelming with the introduction of many new products over the past few years. Fortunately, these products have greatly improved our ability to control external and internal parasites in our pets. We at Animal Hospital of North Asheville have done the hard work of research and choosing products for you, and recommend the following:
Ticks: Ticks need to be prevented from harming your dog, so start your pet on one of the preventative medications, Nexgard or Frontline Plus, by the beginning of March each year and continue it through the fall, or use a Seresto collar if your pet is already on Trifexis (Trifexis prevents flea problems but not ticks) .
- Nexgard: An oral medication administered once a month as a beef flavored chewable pill. Nexgard also kills adult fleas before they lay eggs.
- Frontline Plus: A topical medicine applied to your pet’s neck/back that will kill adult ticks up to 30 days. We recommend no swimming or bathing for at least 2 days before or after application of Frontline Plus. Frontline Plus is effective for ticks, but may not meet your expectations as a flea treatment/preventive and definitely does not provide enough protection against fleas for dogs who are itchy.
- Seresto Collar: With its innovative delivery system, Seresto® offers a breakthrough in tick protection for dogs or cats for up to eight months. This collar is also effective against fleas but does not carry a guarantee.
It is important to check your pet for ticks regularly. If you find a tick attached to your pet, it is important to remove it by grasping it as close to the attachment as possible and pulling. Do not use your bare hands. Grasp it with tweezers or grasp it with a paper towel to protect your fingers from coming in contact with the tick.
Fleas: It is important to protect your dog from fleas. Fleas can be present all year long in this area, but are definitely worse in the spring, summer and fall. Fleas and the allergies that so many dogs have to them are the cause of much of the itching that dogs experience. Before any itchy dog can be further diagnosed, it is mandatory to kill all adult fleas! Any dog that is at all itchy should have the highest level of flea prevention. That is the very first thing to do to help a dog that is itchy.
It is important for you to realize that the heartworm preventative monthly tablet that your veterinarian prescribes for your pet may or may not kill adult fleas. We carry two heartworm preventatives, Sentinel and Trifexis. Sentinel kills flea eggs but does not kill adult fleas. Trifexis kills adult fleas before they can lay eggs. Both do an excellent job of preventing heartworms and intestinal worms, but Trifexis is much more effective against fleas. If you have an itchy dog that is on Sentinel, then you will need to give Nexgard (kills adult fleas and kills ticks) to kill the adult fleas. If your dog is ever itchy, be sure that your dog is on one of the following combinations of products. Either one will protect your pet well from fleas if given all year around.
Trifexis for heartworms, adult fleas and intestinal parasites all year long AND Frontline Plus for ticks during tick season (very early Spring through Fall)
Sentinel for heartworms, flea eggs, and intestinal parasites all year long AND Nexgard for ticks and adult fleas all year long
Sentinel for heartworms, flea eggs, and intestinal parasites all year long AND Seresto Collar for both adult fleas and for ticks (Note: Seresto Collars do not come with a flea free guarantee from the company.)
It is important to realize that for the excellent flea control your pet should receive treatment against fleas all year long.
Ticks: Ticks are abundant in the spring and summer, especially in Western NC. Ticks are more likely to attach to dogs than cats, but if a tick does attach to your cat, it is important to remove it quickly as directed above under dogs. To treat and prevent ticks on your cat, discuss with your veterinarian which product is right for your cat. We carry Frontline Plus for cats which can be used for the treatment of ticks and can be used safely along with Revolution for cats as long as the two products are applied 24 hours apart.
Fleas: Because cats are frequent groomers, it can be difficult to find adult fleas on them, even in the presence of infestation. Any itchy cat must have excellent flea control before any other causes of itching can be ruled out. Cats who go outdoors are often a source of flea infestation in the household, so all cats in the household should receive flea control year-round.
Cats are very sensitive to many pesticides, so it is very important to use a product that labeled for use in cats because some products that cause no problems in dogs can be fatal to cats. If you are applying topical products to cats and dogs, check the label first to make sure you are using the appropriate product! Animal Hospital of North Asheville recommends:
- Revolution topical drops for cats: Revolution provides control of fleas, heartworms, hookworms, roundworms and ear mites in cats. Monthly application is the best way to control all of the major internal and external parasites that cats are susceptible to.
- Advantage: This topical drip-on product controls fleas for 30 days, but it does not control other parasites in cats. Because there is no approved treatment for heartworm infection in cats, prevention is critical. We recommend that you use Revolution for Cats topically once a month all year around to prevent heartworms in your cat.Remember Revolution also prevents problems from many intestinal parasites, fleas, and ear mites.
- Frontline Plus: Frontline Plus is effective for ticks, but may not meet your expectations as a flea treatment/preventive and definitely does not provide enough protection against fleas for cats who are itchy, scabby or overgrooming.