Springing Into Flea and Tick Season in the Great Outdoors
May 2021 by Dr. Charine Tabbah Ahmed
The birds in my New England town seem to know something I don’t, that despite what my weather app says, spring is here and summer is around the corner! While the birdsong is a welcomed foreshadowing of warmer days to come, it is a reminder of the return of other fair-weather friends, like fleas and ticks. While we think of spring and fall as open season for these parasites, the Companion Animal Parasite Council and the American Animal Hospital Association both recommend year-round flea and tick control.
If you had a February like we did in the Northeast, you may be scratching your head right now wondering why your pets need prevention during the winter months. With snow and ice still covering much of the ground, it is easy to forget that ticks do not die in the winter and are out questing for a blood meal when temperatures exceed 40 degrees Fahrenheit.1 One of my favorite pictures to show pet owners depicts a deer tick questing on feet of snow in the middle of winter in Maine. Check that weather app again and look back over the last 30 days. Did your town see any temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit? If that’s the case, you and your pets were at risk of becoming a meal for these blood-thirsty parasites.
It’s no surprise that many of us have been feeling extra cooped up and lonely this winter, as we abided by shelter-in-place orders and turned to furry companionship to lift our mood and get us outside. While studies show that spending time in nature can improve well-being, it is important that we protect ourselves and our pets from the dangers that lie in the great outdoors.2 Owning a dog or cat puts people at increased risk of acquiring ticks and tickborne disease.3 Ticks are more than a gross nuisance and can carry a variety of diseases, depending on the species of tick and where you live. Perhaps the most well-known tick-borne disease is Lyme disease, caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Ticks carry other pathogens that can cause disease in pets and people including rickettsial diseases like anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and rocky mountain spotted fever or blood parasites like babesiosis.4 Common symptoms include fever, aches and pains, and a rash.5 The severity of symptoms can vary, and these diseases may present differently in pets compared to people. If you find an attached tick on your pet or yourself, remove it immediately by grasping as close to the skin as possible with tweezers applying firm traction and call your veterinarian or healthcare provider.6 For information on tick removal, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html.
Now more than ever, as winter breaks and we get a taste of spring, it’s important to talk to your veterinarian about parasite prevention options for your dogs and cats; and remember to treat every pet in the household, including indoor cats! A flea infestation will not be resolved if there is an untreated pet in the house for those fleas to feed on.7 In fact, a recent study on ticks in cats found that even strictly indoor cats can acquire ticks.8 For these reasons and more, veterinarians recommend year-round flea and tick protection for all pets in your household. Ask your veterinarian about Bravecto® (fluralaner) Chews, Bravecto® (fluralaner) Topical Solution for Dogs, and Bravecto® (fluralaner) Topical Solution for Cats, the only flea and tick preventative that protects your dog or cat for up to 12 weeks* with just one dose!9
As you head into the great outdoors this spring, remember to protect your fur babies and yourself from these parasites that lurk out of sight.
* BRAVECTO kills fleas and prevents flea infestations for 12 weeks. BRAVECTO Chews and BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Dogs kills ticks (black-legged tick, American dog tick, and brown dog tick) for 12 weeks and also kills lone star ticks for 8 weeks. BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Cats kills black-legged ticks for 12 weeks and American dog ticks for 8 weeks.
Important Safety Information
BRAVECTO has not been shown to be effective for 12-weeks duration in puppies or kittens less than 6 months of age. Fluralaner is a member of the isoxazoline class. This class has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions including tremors, ataxia, and seizures. BRAVECTO Chew for Dogs: The most commonly reported adverse reactions include vomiting, decreased appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, polydipsia, and flatulence. BRAVECTO is not effective against lone star ticks beyond 8 weeks of dosing. Seizures have been reported in dogs receiving isoxoline class drugs, even in dogs without a history of seizures. Use with caution in dogs with a history of seizures or neurologic disorders. BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Dogs: The most commonly reported adverse reactions include vomiting, hair loss, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite, and moist dermatitis/rash. Bravecto is not effective against lone star ticks beyond 8 weeks of dosing. For topical use only. Avoid oral ingestion. Seizures have been reported in dogs receiving isoxoline class drugs, even in dogs without a history of seizures. Use caution in dogs with a history of seizures or neurologic disorders. BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Cats: The most commonly reported adverse reactions include vomiting, itching, diarrhea, hair loss, decreased appetite, lethargy, and scabs/ulcerated lesions. BRAVECTO is not effective against American dog ticks beyond 8 weeks of dosing. For topical use only. Avoid oral ingestion. The safety of BRAVECTO has not been established in breeding, pregnant and lactating cats. Neurologic adverse reactions have been reported in cats receiving isoxazoline class drugs, even in cats without a history of neurologic disorders. Use with caution in cats with a history of neurologic disorders.
1 Littman et al. ACVIM consensus update on Lyme borreliosis in dogs and cats. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 2018; 32: 887-903.
2 Morris, B. For better health during the pandemic, is 2 hours outdoors the new 10,000 steps? Wall Street Journal Feb 14. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/for-better-health-during-the-pandemic-is-two-hours-outdoors-the-new-10-000-steps-11613304002 accessed 3/3/21).
3 Jones et al. Pet ownership increases human risk of encountering ticks. Zoonoses Public Health. 2018 February; 65(1):74-79.
4 Tickborne Diseases of the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/index.html accessed May 11, 2021)
5 Ticks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/symptoms.html accessed May 11, 2021).
6 Tick Removal. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html accessed May 11, 2021).
7 Dryden et al. In home assessment of either topical fluralaner or topical selemectin for flea control in naturally infested cats in West Central Florida, USA. Parasites and Vectors.(2018) 11:422.
8 Little et al. Ticks from cats in the United States: Patterns of infestation and infection with pathogens. Veterinary Parasitology. 2018 Jun 15; 257: 15-20.
9 Bravecto. Merck Animal Health. (https://us.bravecto.com accessed 3/3/21).
About the author
Charine Tabbah Ahmed
Sr. Professional Services Veterinarian
New England Region (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT)
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