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Fleas and ticks are a particular concern for pet owners in New England. Here are answers to some of your frequently asked questions about flea and tick prevention and control to help you better protect your dog or cat.


Ask the Vet

Do you have a pet health question you would like to know the answer to? Submit your question and we may feature it in an upcoming FAQ.

Why do I need flea and tick preventative for my pet in the winter?

In the last few years, we have noticed that both fleas and ticks are able to survive New England winters. Even when we have a winter with lots of snow we still see flea and tick infestations in dogs and cats. We recommend that you protect your pets from fleas and ticks by using one of the veterinarian-approved flea and tick preventatives. We have seen animals that have been treated with non veterinarian-approved flea and tick products become very sick (seizures, cardiac arrest) requiring emergency care.

If my dog or cat has fleas, does my house need to be treated?

First and foremost treat your pets with a veterinarian-approved flea and tick treatment product. You will need to treat your house. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum and treat the house with a product that kills adult and pre-adult fleas. In extreme cases you may need a professional exterminator. It takes approximately three months of treatments to break the flea life cycle.

Which is worse — fleas or ticks?

Ticks appear to cause more problems in dogs than cats. Dogs are more susceptible to tick borne diseases (Lyme, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichia) than cats. Cats are susceptible to disease that are carried by fleas. Both dogs and cats are susceptible to flea allergy dermatitis, which can be very itchy and can cause skin infections. The ingestion of fleas by either cat or dog can cause intestinal parasites called tapeworms.

Is is dangerous for my human family to be applying flea and tick preventative on my pets?

With any chemical product it is best to have a limited amount of contact with your skin.

We recommend not petting your pets in the area that you have applied the flea and tick preventative until the product is dry. Flea and tick preventative seeps into the hair follicles and spreads out through the animal’s skin providing coverage through out its entire body.

Why is it important to use flea and tick preventative if my pets do not go outside?

Unfortunately, fleas, ticks and other insects come inside your house uninvited. (I have never heard anyone tell me that they have a flea infestation in their driveway.) Even if your pets stay indoors, the bugs will come to them. The humans in the family most likely go out and bring in unwanted bugs too.

Anna Portnoy, DVM

Dr. Anna Portnoy is Chief of Staff at Riverside Animal Hospital in Riverside, RI. She has a special interest in small animal dermatology, surgery, and large animal ruminant medicine.