Fleas and ticks can often be found all around us and will easily attach themselves to your dog or cat for a blood meal. However, there are certain things that put our pets at higher risk for encountering these parasites. Here are just some of those risk factors and how to best protect your pet from fleas and ticks.
Pets that live in regions that are warm and humid are at higher risk for infestation, as fleas and ticks thrive in these kinds of environments. However, even if you live in a dry or cooler region doesn’t necessarily mean you are safe from these parasites. Fleas and ticks are found in all 50 U.S. states and on every continent — even Antarctica, where the Glaciopsyllus antarcticus (a flea) and the Ixodes uriae (a tick) feed off birds.
Many people believe fleas and ticks are only a problem in the summer or spring, but they can affect your pet year-round…even during the winter. “Most fleas and ticks prefer to live in warmer climates, but even in cold weather they can find a way to survive,” says veterinarian Dana Koch, VMD. “This survival may be accomplished by living on wild animals, or hiding in bedding, barns, sheds or under decks.”
Do pests such as raccoons, rats, feral dogs/cats or opossums hang around your neighborhood? These animals are common carriers of fleas and ticks, which can easily infest your home, yard or pet. Additionally, friends or family who bring their pets over when they visit may inadvertently expose your home and pet to flea or ticks if they are infested with the parasite at the time.
“Anytime your pet goes out into the world -- even if only for short walks around the block; play dates at the local dog park; a visit to the veterinarian; a stint at the boarding kennel; a trip to the groomer; a ride in the car -- he or she is being exposed to the opportunity for fleas and ticks to hop aboard,” says veterinarian Jennifer Kvamme, DVM.
Dogs or cats that live with other pets (especially those that frequently spend time outdoors) also have a higher chance of becoming infested because they’re likely to jump from one host to another.
If your pet is not currently on some type of flea and tick preventative, or if you sometimes forget or choose not to provide them with their regular dosage year-round, you may be unwittingly increasing the risk your dog or cat becomes infested with fleas or ticks. “Fleas and ticks are canny creatures, and they have ways of making it into your home and onto your pets, even with preventions in place,” says Dr. Kvamme. “All it takes is a few fleas or ticks before you have a full-scale infestation of your yard, your pet, or your home.”
Dr. Kvamme recommends visiting your veterinarian for advice on the best preventive medications and the safest way to use them. There are many options to choose from, including topical and oral flea and tick preventatives. Your veterinarian will be able to show you the proper way to apply these medications and recommend the right dose for your pet’s age and weight.