Discussing the importance of summer preventive pet care

  By: Dr. Magdalena Smrdelj
       Chief Veterinary Officer, Ontario SPCA

  August 3, 2016

Our pets love being outside in the summer… Enjoying the sunshine, walks in the park, and rolling in the grass. Unfortunately, summertime is also the primetime for fleas and ticks.

Below, we delve into the world of preventive pet care in terms of these nasty parasites! I'll explain how the pet is impacted and what you can do to protect your pet!

Fleas

In Canada, peak flea season tends to run from early August to early October. Fleas can cause both people and pets discomfort through skin irritation, itchiness, rashes, and hair loss. They can also cause more serious outcomes like anemia and spread diseases like cat-scratch fever.

Preventive pet care

There are a number of ways to reduce the chances of your pet getting fleas and/or fleas coming into your home. Here are a few:

  • Keep your cat indoors
  • Give your pet flea medication*
  • Inspect your pet's coat often

*There are many types of flea medication available, including ones that go directly on your pet's skin and ones that are taken by mouth. Some flea medication target eggs and some target adult fleas. The best source of information about flea medication is your veterinarian. Please consult your veterinarian about which type of medication would work best for your pet. Be careful when looking for over-the-counter flea medication; some of these can actually be harmful for your pet!

Checking for fleas

If your pet likes to be outdoors, you need to be periodically checking them for fleas. Typically, fleas like to hang out on the base of the tail. You can check for them by combing the hair against the fur to see the skin and looking for "flea dirt" or spots of dried blood that looks like black pepper.

How do I get rid of fleas?

The first thing to do when recognizing your pet has fleas is to consult your veterinarian. Next, clean all the areas of your home where your pet likes to hang out - such as bedding, furniture, carpet area, and where the carpet and floorboards connect. After cleaning the house, put all the pet's bedding through your washing machine and dryer, along with your own clothes.

The Government of Canada has an informative fact sheet about fleas and ways to get rid of them. You can check out this page here.

Ticks

In Canada, the greatest risk of getting a tick bite is during the spring and summer months. However, you can still be at risk for a tick bite in the winter if you live in an area that has mild weather and no snow.

Ticks are members of the same family as spiders. They have great biting mouthparts they can use. Ticks bite onto the skin and feed on their host's blood supply. Ticks are attracted to three things: body motion, body heat, and carbon dioxide. They live close to the ground, often in tall grasses, and can jump onto you or your pet. Common places to find ticks on your pet include the neck, around the ears and head, the front part of their chest, and the underside of the chest. If uninterrupted, ticks will feed on your pet for about 5-10 days and then drop off. Typically they won't land in your house unless something knocks them off when they're ready to drop off, as they prefer to drop off outside.

Ticks are dangerous to both pets and people because they can be infected by different kinds of bacteria that can make people and pets sick. Specifically, some types of ticks can be carriers of Lyme Disease.

Preventive measures:

First and foremost, tick medication! There are a variety of tick prevention medications available. These medications work by causing ticks to die and drop off if they bite your pet. It is best to talk to your veterinarian about which tick preventive medication would be best for your pet.

When walking through long grasses or deep woods, wear closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved and pants, with your socks pulled over your pant legs. After a walk in these areas, check yourself and your pet thoroughly for ticks.

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Avoid flea and tick troubles by providing your pet with preventive care! Talk to your veterinarian about how you can best protect your pets against these parasites this summer.