Mild winter means unusual spring flea, tick infestation for local dogs, cats

Q: We are finding a lot of fleas and ticks on our dog and two cats.

We have never really had much of a problem before. Please help! J.M., Farragut

A: You are not alone. Fleas and ticks are abundant right now. Many of us believe that the mild winter was not cold enough to kill many of these parasites, thus making it a difficult spring for our pets.

Thankfully, there are many good, safe products for dogs and cats. These include spot-on topical treatments, oral tablets and even a collar that lasts eight months.

Some of these medications also provide protection against heartworm disease and intestinal parasites. These products kill fleas and ticks within six to 24 hours, depending on the product.

It is important that you talk to your veterinarian about which product is best for your dog and cat. He or she will evaluate your pet’s health status, including any pre-existing conditions, such as dry skin or allergies. Your family and your pet’s lifestyle should also be taken into consideration before recommending a product. For example, if you live on the lake and your dog swims every day, a topical medication may not work as well compared to a tablet.

In severe infestations, I know families that have had to call exterminators to treat the interior and exterior of the home. This can help reduce the flea population, but it’s very difficult to eliminate everything, and wildlife still will carry more fleas and ticks into the yard.

In East Tennessee, it is important to continue the flea and tick preventatives for 10 to 12 months of the year, depending on the weather. Fleas can cause skin infections, anemias, and tapeworms.

Ticks can cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, and Bartonella. Talk to your veterinarian today about what medications will work best for your pets.

If you have a question about your pets, you may e-mail Myers at