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👍 Your Guide to Keeping Dogs & Cats Safe During Flea & Tick Season 🐶😸

⚠️ With warmer weather comes the threat of pests that can carry dangerous diseases.

No sooner is the weather warm enough to spend time outside than the onset of flea and tick season is upon us. A study showed that Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses occur most frequently during late spring and summer. Tick-borne diseases don’t just threaten the health of humans, but can disable dogs and cats as well. These are serious and sometimes life-threatening illnesses that can be chronic if not deadly. If you are not already giving your pets a flea and tick preventative, it’s not too late to protect them from becoming seriously ill. 

Your cats should be safely inside, rather than romping around outdoors like dogs. However, just because they are housed indoors doesn't mean they can’t pick up a tick who has made it inside by hitching a ride on you or another household pet. 

Most dogs spend at least some time outside every day, even if they’re not lounging in the grass for hours or traipsing through the forest on long hikes. This puts them at an even greater risk than cats for catching a dangerous disease from a tick. Just one bite by an infected tick is enough to transmit a disease that could seriously impact the health of your dog. Illnesses dogs can catch from a tick bite include: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, canine ehrlichiosis, canine anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, and babesiosis.

The symptoms of Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, the two most common tick-borne diseases in dogs, are similar, and include: fever, stiff joints/joint pain, and lethargy.

Though cats are not susceptible to Lyme disease or anaplasmosis in the way that dogs are, they are threatened by other tick-borne illnesses. These include the potentially deadly (and common) hemobartonellosis, and the rarer but also often lethal diseases cytauxzoonosis, and tularemia.

Historically, people used flea and tick collars as preventatives for dogs and cats, but today’s more advanced preventatives include both those that are ingested (like a treat), and those that are administered topically. 

Is your dog or cat in need of flea & tick prevention medication? The Dutchess County SPCA Wellness Clinic can prescribe the right preventative for your pet's needs. Find out more here.

The Dutchess County SPCA does not recommend flea and tick collars because of the irritation or even burns they may leave on animals’ necks due to the skin’s constant contact with strong chemicals.

The DCSPCA’s own Shelter Veterinarian, Dr. Michael A. Berman, always recommends pet parents discuss the risk associated with flea and tick bites with their own pet’s veterinarian. This includes risks pertaining to which parasites your pet is susceptible to, and any underlying health concerns that could be made worse from parasites, and the types of preventatives used.

“Numerous products out there protect against a spectrum of different parasites. Traditionally there are many flea and tick preventatives, but now there are many products that also combine medications that treat or prevent other internal and external parasites,” explains Dr. Berman. “The veterinarian can be a valuable resource to know what types of parasites your pet will be facing.”

Though there is a slight risk for side effects, most of the modern oral and topical preventatives are well tolerated by cats and dogs. If your dog has a history of seizures or a seizure disorder, please consult your veterinarian before giving them an oral preventative containing isoxazoline.

“Always read product information carefully as well as talk to your veterinarian about the proper use of the products you choose to use,” says Dr. Berman. “There are varying formulations such as topical liquids, oral tablets, medicated collars that all have different directions on how to apply, how often to apply, and when and if bathing or water affect the product.”

“Many natural products are available that can be useful at keeping external parasites away. They are not without risk and like other products the user should be careful to follow all directions on the safe use of the products. Oils can cause skin irritation as well as vomiting, loss of appetite, drooling, and even neurological or respiratory distress in some sensitive animals.”

“Beware of counterfeit products,” Dr. Berman adds. “Always purchase products from your veterinarian or a trusted pet pharmacy retailer.”

Your dog may still be bitten by a tick while taking these medications, however the tick will most likely die quickly, without the opportunity for infecting your pet. For added safety, it’s best to check your dog for ticks when they come in from a walk or playtime in the yard. Be sure to include their feet and between their toes, inside their ears, and under their legs when you inspect them.

“Symptoms caused by tick infection such as Lyme to be on the look out for are limping, which can vary from limb to limb on different days, lethargy, and lack of appetite,” says Dr. Berman. “If you do find ticks attached to your dog, proper removal can be done at home or by your veterinarian.”

In the event that your dog does contract Lyme or anaplasmosis, both common in Dutchess County, there are effective medications to treat the diseases that your veterinarian can prescribe. However, the best way to keep your pets healthy is always prevention.

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