DR. ANNE RICHARDS OF CAT DOCTORS VETERINARY PRACTICE
OFFERS CAT HEALTH ADVICE EXCLUSIVELY FOR PURRFECT TRAVELS
We all welcome the coming of spring weather. Warmer temperatures, gentle breezes and pretty flowers are the benefits of the season, but unfortunately the warmer weather also quickly brings the re-emergence of bugs that can trouble us and our pets.
For those who live in areas where the seasons vary quite a bit, winter is a time when many people drop their guard about preventing external parasites for a little while. Of course, in more tropical locations, these pests are a year-round problem. Either way, if temperatures are not consistently below freezing, it’s time to be thinking about fleas, ticks, and other parasites. These bugs are not only a nuisance, causing itching and welts, but they are also important carriers of disease.
Fleas can transmit Bartonella bacteria, the causative agent of “cat scratch fever,“ as well as tapeworms. Ticks carry Lyme disease as well as a host of other, less well-known, infections. Cats do not often get sick from tick-borne diseases, but some cats get severe infections, plus they can bring ticks into the house where they can bite a human.
What’s what when it comes to prevention products
Luckily, there are many good options for protecting your cat against biting pests.
In areas where ticks are not a problem, a simple monthly flea preventative like Advantage (imidacloprid) is usually sufficient to keep fleas from infesting your cat and, by extension, your house. If ticks are common in your area, Frontline (fipronil) can protect against both fleas and ticks. Unfortunately, it does not repel ticks so you should still check your cat each time he goes out for ticks that are “hitchhiking” a ride into the house but haven’t attached yet. Revolution (selamectin) is another good option which protects against fleas, ear mites, heartworm, certain intestinal parasites, and one species of ticks. All of these medications are applied monthly to the back of the cat’s neck. For owners who don’t want to have to remember a monthly treatment and whose cats tolerate collars, there is also a new collar called Soresto, which lasts for eight months and protects against fleas and ticks.
When considering parasite control options, make sure to choose carefully and consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions. There are more products than the ones mentioned and some are also very safe and effective. There are also generic versions of some of the products listed above that have the same active ingredient as the brand-name. However, there are also older chemicals that may be attractive because they are cheaper, but are not as safe for your cat.
Do you have dogs and cats?
Most importantly, never use a dog product on a cat! Dogs can tolerate certain very effective insecticides that are toxic for cats or can tolerate higher concentrations than cats can, so some dog products can cause severe side effects or even death. Read product labels carefully and talk to your veterinarian about whether your cat should be kept away from your dog for a few hours after you put a preventative on the dog. Also, “natural” products are sometimes attractive, but are rarely effective and in some cases contain plant oils which can be toxic to cats.
Heartworms are another warm-weather concern. These tiny worms are carried by mosquitoes and live in the bloodstream of infected animals. Heartworms are primarily a dog parasite and all dogs should be protected year-round from infection in most areas of the world. Cats don’t get heartworms often, but when they do it can cause asthma-like coughing, vomiting, and even death. If you live in an area where there are mosquitoes, a monthly heartworm preventative like Heartgard (ivermectin) or Revolution (selamectin) is a good idea.
Checklist for indoor-only cats
You may wonder whether parasite prevention is only necessary for cats that spend some time outdoors, or whether your indoor cat should receive it as well. If you live in a temperate climate and don’t have any pets who go outside, you may not need to use a preventative, but here are helpful guidelines:
1. Check your skin periodically to make sure you haven't brought in any ticks from outdoors.
2. If you have a dog, or if you live in a warm-weather climate with a heavy flea burden, even indoor cats should be protected.
3. Cats don't have to go outdoors to be protected from mosquitoes. If you ever get mosquitoes in your house, you should consider a heartworm preventative.
These solutions should help everyone enjoy the beautiful spring weather without worrying about pests!
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