Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Parasite Prevention, Inside and Out

Pet Column for the week of July 3, 2013

Related information:

Related site - Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Sarah Netherton
Information Specialist

Source - Dr. Leslie Gellatly
Fleas and ticks can afflict a pet all year long, but the summer months play a crucial role in preventing a parasite infestation.

That’s why Dr. Leslie Gellatly, a veterinarian at the Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine, part of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, recommends treating dogs and cats with topical flea and tick control once every 30 days year-round.

“Fleas and ticks are bothersome to pets, and they can carry diseases,” says Dr. Gellatly. “When the flea bites a pet, this is not only painful to the animal; but if swallowed, the flea can transmit parasites.”

According to Dr. Gellatly, tapeworms are transmitted to cats and dogs when a pet swallows a flea that is carrying tapeworms. Once in the pet’s body, the tapeworms mature and live in the intestines, impairing the pet’s ability to absorb nutrients from its food and potentially causing other problems.

The more obvious downside of fleas is flea allergy dermatitis, which is the most common skin disorder in dogs in the United States of America. Cats can also suffer from this type of dermatitis.

Flea allergy dermatitis causes sores on a dog’s lower back, base of tail, and inner thighs. The dog may be restless and uncomfortable, and lead to scratching, licking and chewing at the affected areas.

In cats, patients with flea allergy dermatitis commonly present to a veterinarian for excessive grooming with hair loss and crusting sores on the neck, back, inner thighs, and abdomen.

“Flea allergy dermatitis is more prevalent in the summer months, but it has the potential to be a problem all year—depending on the climate in which the pet lives,” says Dr. Gellatly.

Ticks can carry many diseases, including Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Ehrlichia. Preventing tick attachment is important because these diseases can be fatal to cats and dogs. Ticks generally need to be attached for at least 24-48 hours to transmit disease.

Dr. Gellatly recommends consulting a veterinarian to determine the products that will work best for your pet. One factor to consider is your pet’s lifestyle. There are different parasite preventatives for cats depending on whether they go outdoors, for example. Similarly, dogs that spend time in wooded areas may need a higher level of protection than do dogs that remain in towns and cities.

“Not all flea and tick products are the same,” advises Dr. Gellatly. “The quality of control of different over-the-counter products varies.”

In addition, some topical dog products can be lethal to cats, and some over-the-counter products have an increased risk of reactions.

For more information about parasite prevention, speak with your local veterinarian.