Wednesday, August 2, 2017

All Our Pets By Meryl Wiygul

Dear Meryl:  We dread this time of year because we start scratching.  Warm weather brings out the flea and tick hatches and we are miserable.  Our owners don’t seem to care.  Could you help us convince them that we need help? Thanks.  Jake, Scout, and Allie

Don’t you just hate the constant scratching? Fleas and ticks are a major problem not only for dogs and cats, but also potentially for their owners. 

There are over 2000 varieties of fleas. One female can produce in excess of 2000 eggs in her lifetime. As the black (bubonic) plague demonstrated, fleas occasionally have negative consequences for humans also, whether the vector is a cat, a dog, or a rodent. And flea allergies are a frequent side effect of flea infestations. Additionally, tapeworms are passed via fleas. Vacuuming will help especially if you put mothballs or a piece of a flea collar in the vacuum cleaner bag to kill the fleas but you must deal with the animal itself, especially here in the south where they thrive.
Ticks are even worse. They can be found on dogs, cats, horses, any warm-blooded animal. Several human diseases commonly result from the bite of infected ticks including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (my owner had that and she says it was not a picnic), Lyme disease, and Ehrlichiosis. Even light infestations can cause a temporary paralysis in the dog as the toxins from the infected ticks’ saliva enter the blood stream. Cure for that is removing the ticks but curing the human diseases is much more difficult.

The big dog ticks you commonly see and the little deer tick are culprits for the several tick-borne diseases.

So what do you tell your owners to do? Well, control is much easier than it used to be. We used to get dipped every Sunday and then the yard was sprayed and the house was routinely "bombed.” It was a pain. Now we get a monthly treatment of a topical flea/tick preparation and our cat friends get the same. If you don’t treat the cats (who don’t seem to scratch as much), then the cat will hand off its fleas to the dogs. Good topical treatments, which spread throughout the oil released by the skin, are Frontline Plus, Advantage, and several others. There are some products such as permethrin that are cheaper and can be bought at “big box” stores but permethrin is a much shorter-acting product and will also wash off if the dog gets wet. The better products will make it through a dip in the pond or a bath with a mild dog shampoo. There are a couple of products that combine flea control and heartworm prevention but they do not take care of ticks. In our household, the first of every month means we get a separate heartworm pill and our flea/tick treatment. If you have a cat that spends time outside, use a product such as Revolution and Advantage Plus that treats both heartworms and fleas. However, this year the ticks are an even bigger problem than usual so we have changed to a pill that
really works on ticks (and fleas). The one we are using is called Bravecto. Expensive but lasts 90 days. Given the danger of human tick diseases, you may find it worth the cost.

CAUTION: Do not double dose. Do not use these treatments and anything else. If you are using a flea/tick topical, do not add a spray, tick or flea collar. You can poison a dog or cat this way. NEVER use a topical preparation meant for a dog on a cat. Cats need much lower dosages. Severe neurological problems and even death can result from dosing with a product meant for dogs.

These treatments are not cheap. The best can be bought at major pet supply stores, via the internet, at big farm co-ops, and at your veterinarian’s office. You may think your veterinarian makes a lot of money off these but that is not true. Except for large-volume internet purchases, the price is about the same from all retailers. Is the price worth it to our dogs and cats and their owners? You bet.

If you have a dog-related question for Meryl, she will gladly answer. Her email address is My snooty cat friend, Alice, will be glad to answer cat-related questions at the same email address. She thinks she knows everything so try to give her a really hard question. Alice and I both agree that spaying or neutering your pet is a good thing even though we didn’t particularly enjoy our operations. And visit the Starkville or Louisville Animal Shelter for you next pet.

Submitted by: Sherrie Wiygul