Safe Flea & Tick Prevention for Your Pet

Parasites that feed on the blood of their host, fleas and ticks are efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Go ahead, say it with us, “Ewwww.” 

Fleas and ticks can cause two specific problems. First, they can cause discomfort and skin irritation through their bites, and in some cases can cause severe allergic reactions in both pets and people. Secondly, they both can carry diseases, causing illness both in pets and people. Some of these diseases can be deadly and others can cause severe, chronic, and lifelong illness, including but not limited to: Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, rickettsiosis, tularemia, cytauxzoonosis, and hepatozoonosis. 

Prevention is key, especially if you travel frequently as many areas outside of Colorado have  high rates of tick-borne illnesses. Treating an infestation is much more difficult (and costly) than preventing it.

Avoiding Harsh Chemicals

At Harmony, we recognize the need to be safe with both flea and tick products. We strongly advise not using anything that is permethrin, organophosphate, or DEET based. While these chemicals are highly effective at killing fleas and ticks, they are also highly carcinogenic. 

We always recommend going back to basics as a safe and healthy response to ticks: Conduct a tick check after every walk, every time. For fleas, utilize a flea comb.

Dr. Jean Hofve, a holistic veterinarian and personal friend of our clinic, helped develop Herbal Defense Flea and Tick Spray for dogs and cats. This essential oil-based repellent does a decent job at keeping fleas and ticks off of your dog or cat. 

In diluted concentrations, lemongrass, citronella and neem essential oils are good natural preventatives for both dogs and cats. A word of caution however: not all essential oils are safe for cats and dogs. Check the label carefully and when in doubt ask one of our veterinarians.

However, if you are experiencing an infestation, repellents simply don’t have the kill factor you need to make your pet — and yourself — comfortable or safe. In heavily flea or tick infested areas, Frontline Plus and Nexgard provide additional options to prevent and eliminate fleas and ticks. These products have been on the market for many years and provide a fast, safe and effective solution. 

Frontline can be used on dogs or cats. It is applied topically and stays at the lipid layer of the skin, killing the flea or tick when it bites your pet. Nexgard can only be used for dogs, and is a new generation biomimicry product, not an insecticide. When ingested by a dog, this oral chew mimics the defenses of a sea snail. When a flea or tick bites your dog, Nexgard short-circuits the pest’s neurology, causing the flea or tick to die. 

A thorough home cleaning program — including daily vacuuming and bedding changes — combined with the use of either Frontline Plus or Nexgard, can get your pet and home flea- and tick-free in one-to-two months. 

Thankfully, except for a few weeks during the summer months or in rodent colonies, Colorado’s climate is not suitable for fleas. If you live near rabbits and prairie dogs, be on the lookout for fleas in the summer. Ticks come out in the spring and fall, and unfortunately Colorado has a lot of them. 

It is important to seek veterinary advice when dealing with any flea and tick prevention. Dogs and cats cannot use the same flea and tick products, and many over-the-counter products  (natural or otherwise) can be toxic or ineffective.  We are happy to help you find the right preventative protocol to fit your pet and your family’s lifestyle.