9 common misconceptions about fleas, ticks and your pets

(BPT) - What you don't know about fleas, ticks and your pet might surprise you. A study by the Harris Poll on behalf of Merck Animal Health found U.S. pet owners hold some common misconceptions when it comes to keeping these pests away from their pets.

This survey was recently conducted online within the U.S. among 1,376 adults ages 18 and older, who own a dog and/or cat. Results were weighted for age within gender, region, race/ethnicity, income and education where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

The pet owners surveyed thought they knew more than they did about ticks, fleas and their pets, with more than half categorizing themselves as "very knowledgeable" about these pests when the reality showed gaps in that knowledge. One-third of people surveyed said they don't give their pets regular flea and tick medication, and nearly half don't bring their pets to the vet for routine exams to protect against the creepy crawlies.

It's not just an issue for your pets. The study came at a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that human illnesses from tick, flea and mosquito bites more than tripled in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016. "Illnesses on the Rise from Mosquito, Tick and Flea Bites,” appeared in the CDC's monthly report, Vital Signs, in May.

According to the CDC, 90% of all pet parents say they would “do anything” to keep their pets safe from fleas and ticks, but many respondents were unaware that flea infestations could occur in the home during any season, regardless of the temperature outside. Fleas can carry life-threatening diseases year-round, so it is important to keep your pet protected from these pests in the fall and winter, as well as the hotter months.

Here are some common misconceptions, facts and strategies for protecting your four-legged best friend.

It's not just a summer problem. If it's above about 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside, fleas and ticks can be active. They can also thrive, grow, reproduce and infest our animals and homes, just as easily as they could in the summer. However, only half of the people surveyed say they treat their pets year-round.

It's not just for outdoor pets. Fleas and ticks can bedevil indoor pets, too, if they come into contact with other animals. Also, these pests can hitch a ride on you or can be transmitted by rodents. Most people also don’t know the flea life cycle typically lasts around 12 days, and adult fleas can lay up to 50 eggs a day, which means these unwanted pests can easily live in and infest your home.

Urban dogs and cats aren't exempt from flea and tick problems. Many people believe these pests live mainly in heavily wooded areas, but if your pet is outside, even in the city, it's vulnerable.

You don't have to re-dose your pet monthly. Consult with your veterinarian to ensure your pets are protected year-round. Newer flea and tick preventatives can make it easier by providing extended protection. BRAVECTO® (fluralaner) is a prescription product that provides 12 weeks* of flea and tick protection. [Caution: Federal (USA) law restricts these drugs to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.]

*BRAVECTO kills fleas and prevents flea infestations. BRAVECTO Chew and BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Dogs kills ticks (black-legged tick, American dog tick and brown dog tick) for 12 weeks and also kills lone star ticks for 8 weeks. BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Cats kills ticks (black-legged tick) for 12 weeks and American dog ticks for 8 weeks.

Ticks aren't always visible, especially the small deer ticks that carry Lyme disease. They can feel like small, hard bumps. Check your pet frequently and if you find one, remove it with tweezers, taking care not to leave the head inside your pet.

Lyme disease has been reported in all 50 states, according to Dr. Dan Markwalder of Companion Animal Hospital in Chicago. He advises pet parents to take extra precautions in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions, which see the most cases.

Lyme disease isn't contracted immediately after a tick bite. The tick must be attached to your pet for 24-48 hours. So a solid defense against the disease is to administer flea and tick protection regularly and to check your pet daily.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in pets sometimes mimic other conditions. Look for fever, loss of appetite, reduced energy, lameness and swelling of joints.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in people are similar to those in pets, with the exception of a bull's-eye-shaped rash, which occurs in 70 to 80 percent of the cases, according to the CDC. The rash usually shows up from three to 30 days after the bite.

To find out more about protecting your four-legged friends and BRAVECTO, visit www.LymeAwarenessForPets.com.

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