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Why is Flea & Tick Prevention Important in Cats & Dogs

Why is Flea & Tick Prevention Important in Cats & Dogs

Your vet may have recommended flea and tick prevention (e.g. Nexgard) for your pet. You may also have heard your paw-rent friends swapping tips on where to get flea and tick prevention (e.g Nexgard, Bravecto, Simparica, Frontline ) for cheap.

You may also wonder whether it’s even necessary to spend money on flea and tick preventatives and use them regularly, since many healthy humans can get away without regular preventative medications. You may know that fleas and ticks can cause skin problems. However, did you know that in addition, fleas and ticks cause deadly diseases in cats and dogs? Some of these diseases can even spread to humans!

We’ll first describe how fleas and ticks can cause skin problems in pets. After that, we’ll discuss the various deadly conditions that fleas and ticks can infect our pets (and us!) with.

How do fleas and ticks cause skin problems in pets and humans?

Fleas and skin problems

When fleas bite pets and humans, they release a small amount of saliva into the bloodstream. If the body is allergic to the saliva, it sends a chemical called “histamine” to the flea bite site, which causes an intense itch and inflamed red spots. Scratching the irritated skin will damage it and increase the skin’s vulnerability to bacterial and/or fungal infections.

Anyone (human or pet) can develop flea allergies over time. Do note that fleas can jump from pets to humans and other pets, and that fleas can survive in typical home environments for several months. Therefore, if you have a multi-pet household and one pet has fleas, it’s likely that your other pets have fleas. If you suspect that your pets have a flea infestation, consult your vet!

Ticks and skin problems

The body can also be allergic to tick bites - this can cause signs such as rashes. Scratching the irritated skin will damage it and increase the skin’s vulnerability to bacterial and/or fungal infections.

As mentioned before, fleas and ticks can cause far more deadly issues than just itchy skin. Read on to learn more about them:

What are some of the dangerous conditions that fleas can cause?

These diseases include (but are not limited to):

1) Anaemia

Fleas suck blood (including red blood cells) when they bite. Heavy flea burdens are more likely to cause anaemia. Anaemia refers to an abnormally low red blood cell count. Red blood cells transport oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues. As anaemic animals’ organs do not receive enough oxygen, they will not function well. Anaemia can cause complications such as heart failure. Severe anaemia can be life-threatening and cause multiple organ failure or death.

Signs of anaemia include pale gums, weakness, staggering, weight loss and so on. Consult a vet asap if you notice these symptoms.

2) Cat scratch fever (Bartonellosis)

Fleas can harbour various types of Bartonella bacteria, and infect cats with these bacteria. Most infected may appear healthy, but some cats may have inflamed gums (signs include difficulty eating), inflamed guts (signs include vomiting/diarrhoea) or even inflamed hearts (signs include weakness, lethargy or even collapse). Consult a vet asap if your cat shows any of these signs!

Bartonellosis is spread through cat saliva. If a cat scratches and/or bites a human, that human is vulnerable to infection with bartonellosis. Symptoms in humans can range from mild to severe/life-threatening. Symptoms can include swollen lymph nodes, fever, or even multiple organ infection. Humans with weaker immune systems are more vulnerable to life-threatening infections.

3) Tapeworms

Tapeworms are a type of intestinal parasite that lives in fleas. Cats and dogs get infected by swallowing tapeworm-containing fleas or eating tapeworm-infected meat. Tapeworms live in the gut and feed on nutrients that are meant for your pet! Heavy tapeworm burdens can cause anaemia, stunted growth, weakness and so on. Tapeworms can also congregate at a dog’s bum and cause an itchy bottom, leading to scooting. Consult a vet if you suspect tapeworm infection in your dog!

Do note that tapeworms can pass from pets to humans! Humans may accidentally swallow tapeworm-infected fleas. Children are more likely to be infected as they may touch their mouths after playing with pets (without washing their hands).

Although flea preventatives will help with tapeworm prevention, you should also ask your vet about adding a dewormer to your cat or dog’s preventative regime.

What are some of the dangerous diseases that ticks can spread?

Ticks can harbour dangerous bacteria that causes nasty diseases in pets and humans - such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, Ehrlichia and so on. Some of these infections can turn into chronic conditions. Signs of these include shifting lameness, fever, poor appetite, weakness, swollen lymph nodes, spontaneous bleeding and so on. Some pets may develop heart and/or kidney issues. There is a window period between a tick bite and the appearance of clinical signs. Therefore, if you notice a tick on your pet, do get your pet to a vet asap!

What sort of flea and tick prevention should I get?

Now that we’ve convinced you to get flea and tick prevention, you may be wondering what brand to get. Should you get Nexgard? Or Nexgard Spectra? What about Revolution Plus, Broadline, or Advocate?

Consult your usual vet! They’re the best person to advise on a suitable flea and tick preventative for your pet. Please note that some products are made just for dogs, and others are just for cats. Some also preventatives protect against intestinal worms. Furthermore, do note that some flea and tick preventatives (e.g. Nexgard Spectra, Simparica Trio) contain heartworm preventatives. It is dangerous to give a dog a heartworm preventative under some circumstances, so you absolutely must consult a vet first to learn more and check whether your dog needs a blood test first! We’ll talk about heartworm in another post so stay tuned!

Once you’ve consulted your vet and they’ve advised you on the best preventative for your dog, check out MAD’s flea and tick range!
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