Fleas & Ticks
By Dr. Jason Palm
Fleas and ticks are one of the most common problems encountered by veterinarians in Central Florida. Both dogs and cats are affected and infestation may occur in both urban and rural areas. Fleas and ticks cause skin irritation and can transmit disease. Effective prevention and treatment is available with a wide variety of products available through your veterinarian.
Skin problems in dogs and cats are extremely common in the subtropical climate of Central Florida. The warm temperatures allow insects and parasites to thrive year-round. The suburban sprawl that has taken place during the last twenty years has left pockets of undeveloped land which is occupied by different types of wildlife, including mammals such as raccoons and possums. These mammals can carry fleas and ticks and act as vectors to transmit infestations to our pets. Even dogs and cats that spend a limited amount of time outside are vulnerable.
Fleas and tick bites can cause irritation and pain to our pets. In certain animals, these bites may contain small amounts of flea or tick saliva that can cause an allergic reaction. When the skin is inflamed, hair loss and severe itching may occur. Your pet’s skin may then be vulnerable to secondary yeast or bacterial infection. But even in non-allergic animals, flea and tick infestation is a serious problem. Certain serious systemic diseases, such as erlichiosis in dogs and bartonellosis in cats, may be transmitted by these ectoparasites.
There are many types of treatment and prevention for fleas and ticks in dogs and cats. An oral product containing Luferonon was introduced many years ago but does not kill adult fleas. Topical products containing Permethrins were intoduced later but recent evidence suggest that certain populations of fleas and ticks have become resistant to such products (in much the same way that bacteria may become resistant to antibiotics). There is now a new oral product containing Spinosad that seems to work quite well against fleas in dogs. Tick control is a bit trickier in dogs, but there are a variety of topical products that work well. A topical product containing Selamectin provides broad spectrum protection in cats. You should ask your veterinarian about which products he or she recommends because different products may be more useful in certain areas of Central Florida.
Fleas and ticks are more than just an annoyance to dogs and cats. They can transmit serious diseases and be a public health hazard to humans, icluding children. In my opinion, fleas and tick prevention is as important as heartworm prevention in this part of the country. Please consult your veterinarian about this important topic regarding your pet’s health.