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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Springtime has finally arrived for most of us in the U.S. Unfortunately, spring also brings those nasty little pests we know as fleas and ticks.

Though both fleas and ticks can survive the winter under the right circumstances, there is no doubt that the increased temperatures of spring causes an increase in the numbers of these pests as well.

Why worry about fleas and ticks? Fleas and ticks both can pose a threat for your cat. Both of these pests feed off of your cat’s blood. If the infestation is heavy enough, your cat can lose enough blood to become anemic. This is especially true for young kittens because of their smaller body size. Your cat may also develop skin rashes and other skin lesions when infested. Flea allergy dermatitis is common in cats and can cause your cat to become extremely uncomfortable and itchy.

Fleas and ticks can also carry diseases and parasites that can be dangerous to your cat and in some cases to you and your family as well. Fleas frequently carry tapeworms and your cat can become infected with these parasites if infested with fleas. In addition, fleas can carry even more serious diseases such as cat scratch disease, plaque, and typhus. Ticks can carry diseases such as cytauxzoonosis, which can threaten your cat’s health as well.

Clearly, it is important to protect your cat from both fleas and ticks. However, it is also critical to do so safely. Fortunately, we have a number of safe and effective options for flea and tick control for our cats. Here are some tips for choosing the right preventive for your cat.

  • Don’t assume that your indoor cat is safe from getting fleas or ticks. Fleas can easily find their way indoors through small openings or holes in screens or doorways or by hitch-hiking on clothing or other pets that do go outdoors. Though a less common problem than fleas that find their way indoors, ticks can also hitch-hike on other pets and find themselves indoors where they can then threaten your cat or your family.
  • Preventing fleas is much easier than trying to treat an existing infection. Take action proactively to protect your cat from becoming infested. Once a flea infestation exists, it takes months to eliminate the infestation regardless of the product used on your cat. Attention must be paid to killing and removing fleas and flea larvae from your cat’s environment if an infestation already exists.
  • Check your cat often for ticks, particularly if your cat is allowed outdoors. Remove any ticks found promptly.
  • Consult your veterinarian for help in choosing the best flea and/or tick preventive for your cat.
  • Always follow label directions when using flea and tick preventives. Choose the product specific for your cat’s size and weight, where applicable. Never administer topical products orally.
  • Never use a flea and tick product labeled only for dogs on your cat. Many dog products are not safe for cats. Always choose a product that indicates on the label that the product is safe for cats.

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: vvvita / via Shutterstock

Comments  1

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  • Words to the Wise
    04/15/2013 05:46pm

    Words of wisdom, for sure.

    One of my indoor-only kitties ended up with tapeworms. Not having a clue at the time that fleas could be a problem, I picked off what I thought was a piece of kitty litter stuck to Darlene's backside. It was a tapeworm. EEEeeuuuu. (Of course, I did this in front of a houseguest, too.)

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