Here in DC spring is starting to make way for the summer heat and as we head outdoors with our pets fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are ready for a feast. In most climates protection from these creepy crawlers is recommended year round but now is the time to be extra vigilant with your flea, tick and heartworm prevention.

protect your pets from ticks

Closeup of tick on Dog

Everyone knows how annoying those relentless mosquitoes are when you are trying to enjoy your yard or back porch. But these pests are more than just irritating – they can endanger your pet’s health by transmitting heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is a parasitic infection transmitted when an infected mosquito bites your dog or cat.

Monthly heartworm prevention is essential year round for dogs and cats, even indoor kitties. There is NO treatment for heartworm in cats, and sudden death is a common result of heartworm infections. While it’s true that infected dogs can be treated, the treatment itself is very dangerous—and can even be fatal. Left untreated, heartworm disease will kill a dog.

Protecting your dogs and cats against fleas and ticks is important as well. Tick borne infections such as Lyme disease, Erlichia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are transmitted when an infected tick bites your dog. The best way to ward these infections off is with a monthly flea and tick preventive. There are many options on the market such as topical “spot-on” products like Frontline, Parastar Plus, K9 Advantix II, Revolution, or Advantage Multi. Oral options include Nexgard and Bravecto which are great because you avoid the annoying greasy spot that you get with the topical products. There is also a flea and tick collar called Seresto that protects your pet for up to eight months.

I recommend sticking with the brand names for these medications. The generics are not as good and some are downright dangerous, especially for cats. I also do not trust any “natural” product enough to effectively repel fleas and ticks.   I know the thought of applying chemicals to your pets is unappealing but so are the diseases these critters transmit.

protect your pets from fleas

Closeup of fleas on cat

Fleas can be extremely itchy and irritating to both you and your pets. Some animals are allergic to fleas and one bite can lead to a significant skin infection. Once a flea infestation invades your home it can be very difficult to clear it out. The best bet is to prevent that from happening by applying the same topical medications that protect against ticks.

Luckily, prevention is easy: just two medications once a month, every single month. If only everything were that simple!

Ashley Gallagher, DVM

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