April showers bring May flowers, fleas, and ticks!

posted on April 02, 2013 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause a variety of health issues for our pets.

Fleas can cause general annoyance from itching, while heavier infestations can cause an anemia (low red blood cell count) which may be fatal to young or small pets.  Fleas can also carry diseases such as the plague, cat scratch fever, and can transmit tapeworms.  Pets can also become allergic to fleas, which can lead to secondary skin issues.

Ticks can carry diseases that are much more severe in nature.  Lyme disease is a bacterial infection carried by ticks.  Ehrlichia is a white blood cell parasite.  Anaplasma is a platelet (clotting cell) parasite.  Babesia is a red blood cell parasite in dogs, and Hepatozoonosis is a white blood cell parasite in dogs.  Cytauxzoonosis is a red blood cell parasite in cats.

These many different diseases carried by ticks can cause a variety of signs in our pets.  Polyarthritis (pain in multiple joints) which can present as reluctance to move, difficulty getting up and down stairs, on and off furniture, or standing or laying down, swollen lymph nodes, decreased appetite, dehydration, fever, weakness, muscle loss or wasting, and generalized pain or increased sensitivity are a few of the symptoms.  More include hypothermia, difficulty breathing, edema (buildup of fluids), weight loss, anemia (seen as pale gums), depression, lethargy, enlarged spleen, bounding pulse, vomiting, diarrhea, bruising, bleeding disorders (such as nose bleeds), eye problems such as inflammation, discharge and even blindness, jaundice (yellowing of skin), shock, coma, and in very severe cases, death.

For these reason, we here at Heritage Animal Hospital recommend using flea and tick preventatives such as Frontline® or Revolution®.

Frontline® is a monthly topical flea and tick preventative.  It is poured on the skin between the shoulder blades and is absorbed into the hair follicles and spreads over the entire body through the skin.  This means it is not a systemic medication and will not interfere with other medications or internal organs.  Fleas and ticks do not need to bite the animal to die; fleas will die within about 12 hours of contact, and ticks will die within about 48 hours of contact, which is less than the amount of time they need to feed in order to spread any diseases they carry.

Revolution® is also a monthly topical product, but unlike Frontline®, it is a systemic medication.  Because of this, it offers protection from a few more parasites than Frontline® does, but it should be pointed out that Revolution® for cats does not protect against ticks.  Revolution® for cats protects against fleas, heartworm, ear mites, hookworms, and roundworms.  Revolution® for dogs protects against fleas, ticks, heartworm, ear mites, and sarcoptic mange.

We carry both of these products in our in-house pharmacy.  We offer special rebates directly through the manufacturers of these products, and can offer the guarantees associated with the products which are only valid if purchased from a veterinarian.

For more information on the various diseases caused by fleas and ticks, please visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council at http://www.capcvet.org.  Discuss with your veterinarian today which flea and tick preventative is right for your pet.