On this installment of Ask Regional Anything, this month's question comes from Janet!
Hi guys! I see tons of commercials for flea and tick products, from pills to collars to drops and sprays. What is the big deal about fleas and ticks anyway? Why do I need to use it for my dog and cat?
Our answer comes from Dr. Emily Frollo, DVM, at Northampton Animal Hospital in Northville.
Great question, Janet! Both fleas and ticks can be irritating to your pets but can also cause or spread other diseases that can be bad for your pet’s health. Especially in young kittens and puppies, fleas can cause severe, life-threatening anemia: low red blood cells, which are responsible for getting oxygen to various parts of the body. Fleas can also give your dog or cat tapeworms, an intestinal worm that most commonly causes diarrhea. Beyond that, fleas can be immensely irritating to people and flea eggs can live in the environment for many months before hatching, so completely clearing your home once you are dealing with an infestation can be time-consuming and frustrating at best.
Ticks are extremely common here in upstate NY, as are some of the diseases they carry and transmit to both our pets and us. Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis are the two tick-borne diseases that we see most commonly in dogs in this area. Lyme disease can cause flu-like symptoms including fever, joint pain, tiredness/lethargy, and loss of appetite. In severe cases, it can also lead to a form of kidney failure known as Lyme nephritis, which has a nearly 100% fatality rate. Anaplasmosis can cause fever and bleeding, since it targets platelets — the cells in the blood that allow for clotting. In other regions, there are other tick-borne diseases including Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Babesiosis, among others. Cats can also get tick-borne diseases (cytauxzoonosis, tularemia, and hemobartonellosis, among others), though these are uncommon in this area.
An important thing to note about ticks is that they can come out any time the ground temperature is above 45°F, so we’ve been seeing ticks on animals throughout the winter lately. Because of this, I recommend keeping your pet on year-round flea/tick prevention.