ASK THE VET: Do I need to use a flea and tick preventative?
Answered by MHS Veterinarian Dr. Michael Redmer, D.V.M.

Q: My dog doesn’t spend much time outdoors and I don’t live near woods or water.  Do I still need to use a flea and tick preventative product on him?

A: Fleas and ticks spend a significant portion of their life cycle off an animal and in the environment.  Although prolonged freezing temperatures will kill fleas and ticks in the environment, they can persist on animals and indoors indefinitely.  Stray cats and dogs, wildlife, and flea-infested homes and pets belonging to neighbors often are the source of your pet’s fleas or ticks.  If you do not use appropriate flea and tick protection on your pets, any encounter with these risk factors can result in the acquisition of these parasites.

Fleas and ticks are more than a nuisance - they pose potential health hazards to you and your pet.  Flea bites cause topical discomfort.  Additionally, both pets and people can be allergic to flea bites.  Severe itching with subsequent skin irritation can persist for up to two weeks after a single flea bite in a sensitive dog or cat.  In young or debilitated pets, flea infestation can result in life threatening anemia.  Ingestion of fleas by pets or people can result in the acquisition of an internal parasite called tapeworm.

Ticks, which are the source of many serious diseases of pets and humans including Lyme disease, are becoming more prevalent in all areas of Michigan.  We strongly recommend that prior to purchasing or using any product to treat or prevent infestation by fleas and ticks, you contact your pet’s veterinarian, since many over-the-counter flea and tick products are ineffective or unsafe.  For our veterinary clients, we dispense topical products specifically formulated for dogs or cats that are both safe and highly effective.

The discussion of flea and tick prevention is an important part of your pet’s annual veterinary checkup, allowing your veterinarian to recommend a safe and effective program for your pet’s individual needs.

Michael Redmer, D.V.M., has been a staff veterinarian at the Michigan Humane Society Berman Center for Animal Care in Westland for more than 10 years.

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