Vet Blog

Your Best Defense: Flea and Tick Prevention Treatments and How They Work

June 12, 2019

Parasite prevention is an essential component of your pet's health and wellbeing and while there are a variety of different parasites that you should protect your pet from, there are two that are particularly common, especially here in Richmond, VA.

These are fleas and ticks.

Both fleas and ticks are external parasites. This means that they live on your pet rather than inside their bodies. As well as needing to drink your pet's blood to survive, both parasites can have other, serious consequences for the health of your pet. Here is what you need to know about why you should prioritize protecting your pet from these parasites, what parasite preventatives are available, and exactly how they work.

Why You Should Protect Your Pet Against Fleas

Fleas are small, wingless parasites that are virtually impossible to see with the naked eye. There are several reasons why you should protect your pet against fleas here in Richmond, VA. These include the following:

  • Fleas cause itching. In fact, persistent scratching is one of the key symptoms associated with fleas. However, if your pet scratches too aggressively, they could damage their skin, leading to infection.
  • Flea saliva is toxic. It contains proteins that many animals can be allergic to. This is called flea allergy dermatitis and can cause irrepressible itching and skin lesions across the body. Animals that are allergic can have a reaction to a single flea bite.
  • Some fleas carry diseases. These include typhus and tapeworms, which can be passed to humans in your home as well as other pets.
  • Fleas have incredible reproduction capabilities. A female can lay between 20-50 eggs each day and it takes around 21 days for an egg to mature into an adult capable of reproducing itself. This means that a few fleas can develop into a huge infestation very quickly and this could mean significant blood loss and other unpleasant symptoms for your pet.

Why You Should Protect Your Pet Against Ticks

Ticks are small, wingless parasites that are grey, brown, or black in color and vary in size because their body swells as they consume your pet's blood. There are also a variety of reasons why you should protect your pet against ticks, including:

  • Some ticks have saliva that contains a neurotoxin. This neurotoxin can cause something known as tick paralysis which, although rare, can potentially be deadly if it affects your pet's respiratory system.
  • Ticks are well known for carrying diseases. These include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and more. The effects of these diseases can be debilitating for your pet.

Flea and Tick Preventatives

The good news is that there are a variety of different preventatives available that can protect your pet fully from both fleas and ticks. Some will kill both parasites as well as prevent them, while some will only do one or the other for either fleas or ticks. For this reason, it is important that you choose your pet's preventative (and treatment if needed) carefully.

Oral Medications

Oral medications for fleas and ticks are supplied in tablet form and are typically administered once a month. These tablets can be swallowed whole or broken up amongst food (depending on the instructions supplied) and should be given as directed. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you which oral medication is most suited to your pet.

How Do Oral Medications Work?

The majority of oral medications for fleas and ticks do not repel them but instead kill adult fleas rapidly so they can no longer reproduce. However, you will need to combine this treatment with effective pet and home preventatives and do a deep, thorough clean of your home multiple times to eradicate the infestation. Exactly how each oral medication works can vary depending on the product that you choose. For example, the chemicals within the oral medication are harmless to your pet but some types will poison the parasite when it bites them, usually by overstimulating their nervous system.

Topical Treatments

Also sometimes called 'spot on' treatments because they require a spot of medication to be placed on to the area of skin, usually at the back of the neck where your pet can't immediately lick it off. Again, most topical medications remain effective for around a month before further applications are required.

How Do Topical Treatments Work?

Again, some topical treatments are purely preventative while others will kill fleas and/or ticks. In most instances, topical products contain an ingredient that is absorbed through your pet's skin and into their bloodstream, attacking the nervous system of the parasite to paralyze and ultimately kill them.

Choosing the right preventative against fleas and ticks can be a minefield, but with the advice and support of an experienced veterinarian here in Richmond, VA, it doesn't have to be. Contact Betty Baugh's Animal Clinic by calling (804) 288-7387 to discover the best preventative for your pet today.