Veterinarian's advice on choosing the right flea and tick medicine

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Summer's here and along with the heat and humidity come things like fleas and ticks.

While there are several products to protect your pets against pests, finding the right one can difficult.

Alexa Gonzalez is an associate veterinarian at Park Veterinary Hospital in Durham and she has some tips and info she'd like all pet owners to be aware this flea and tick season.

She shared her expert advice in an ABC11 Q and A.

What makes this time of the year flea and tick season?

"The moisture in the environment, the heat and humid weather, the increased temperatures outside definitely promotes that good environment for fleas and ticks to breed and proliferate."

What should people know when they're selecting flea and tick medicine? Should they be calling their veterinarian for recommendations?

"I think it's a great idea to consult with your vet. They can kind of point you in the right direction, as to what's best for your lifestyle, what's best for your pet's lifestyle.

There are different medications. There are chews that your pet can take. There are topical medications that you can apply, some are one month duration, some are three months duration. And of course there are different costs and there are different benefits to really each one of those medications."

What are some signs of problems/side effects to watch out for if your pet is on flea and tick medication?

"So it's always a good idea to do tick checks on your animals on a regular basis. If you're finding ticks on your dog who's going outside every day, it's probably an indication that we need to switch to something different or even try a supplemental medication.

There are also some side effects, GI side effects like vomiting, diarrhea - if your dog is taking the chew, the flea/tick preventative chew, and has vomiting and diarrhea the next day, that's probably a pretty good indication that we need to switch to something else."

Can this medicine interact with other things that are happening biologically with your pet?

"They have the potential to have problems. Overall they're very safe medications to take, but of course I think it's always best to consult with your veterinarian before you start your dog or cat on any flea and tick preventatives."

What are some of the active ingredients in flea and tick medications? What do they do?

"Really each medication tends to have a different active ingredient. Some medications actually paralyze the fleas or the ticks, some medications prevent them from laying eggs or procreating, so they each act in a different way.

Although all of them are very safe, it's definitely best to consult with your vet before starting any of those medications."

Does the weight and size of an animal play a role in the type of medication they receive?

"They do, so a lot of medications actually come in different sizes for different weights of animals, so it's important to choose the appropriate size for your animal.

And of course you know we always recommend, maybe the over the counter medications aren't as effective as the ones you can get at your veterinary hospital.

I kind of like to tell people to be a little cautious about those ones for sure."

Are hair loss and lesions a big red flag when it comes to flea and tick medicine?

"Typically with hair loss and lesions, redness and scabbing - it's not something we typically see with those medications, but if something like that comes up, it's definitely advised to bring your pet into the hospital and have them looked at.

It could be an indication of something else that's going on and maybe the collars, the topical medications, are exacerbating whatever is going on in your pet."

Is there anything else you'd like people to know?

"I think it's really important that people know there are a lot of diseases that ticks and fleas carry. It's really important for their pets to be on monthly preventatives even year-round, even during the cold months.

Fleas especially can really proliferate inside and we can actually track those fleas inside. So even if your pet is indoor only, even if you have cats who are indoor only, we have the potential to bring in fleas indoors, so they can actually still get those even if they're indoor only."

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