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Spreading Irritation and Disease in San Diego:
​Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitoes

Our very wet winter has been welcome news for San Diego residents. Our lakes and streams are full, fields are green, and wildflowers are exploding all over the county.  This is great news not just for human residents but for pests as well, where wet conditions mean thriving populations.  For pet owners, the most concerning among these include Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitos.  These pests are not only irritating, but can be vectors of serious diseases. Effective control means finding the right methods and starting early.

Fleas:

Photo of a cat scratching.  Control Fleas on Your PetThese may be the most familiar of the pests that San Diego pet owners must deal with.  Fleas are tiny, blood-sucking parasites that live on your pets' skin.  At a minimum, their bites can make your pet itch; however, they can also lead to more serious problem like miliary  (“flea-allergic”) dermatitis and "flea anemia." Fleas can also transmit other diseases like tapeworms, Mycoplasma haemofelis, and Bartonellosis.  

Fleas reproduce quickly and can explode from a handful of adults to an infestation in a very short time.  Additionally their eggs, laid in your carpet, rugs or yard, can lay dormant for months until conditions are ideal for flea growth.  This results in a “sudden” explosion of adult fleas when the conditions are right and those eggs hatch. 

The key to controlling fleas is getting the jump on them before they are present. Just 1-2 fleas in a household where no flea control is present will result in rapid population growth and an infestation within a matter of days.  This is due to the fact that one flea can produce up to 50 eggs per day!   Because warm snaps in winter weather can cause unexpected flea population explosions, we recommend keeping dogs & cats on flea preventative all year round.

Controlling Fleas

Once you have an established flea infestation, it can take time to get it completely under control.  Even if you effectively kill the adult fleas, existing eggs and larvae can still hatch resulting in a population “boom” just weeks after you started your pet on a flea product.  We usually tell clients that it can take up to 3 months of consistent treatment to fully eliminate a flea infestation from a household.

Home Control:  When addressing a flea infestation, consider your carpet, rugs and yard as potential flea “nurseries.”  Current flea-killing medications are so rapidly effective that treatment of the home environment may not be critical to clearing an infestation.  That being said, treatment of the home may result in faster control of the flea population.

  • For Rugs and Carpets:  Use Borax Laundry Booster (boric acid) or diatomaceous Earth (available in the “organic” section of your home or garden supply store) brushed into the carpet fibers. The crystals work their way under flea shells and dehydrate them.  Both products are safe for pets, but you may want to vacuum up any excess so it isn’t inhaled as powders such as these can act as respiratory irritants for pets and people.
  • For Your Yard:
  • Discourage wild animals from entering your yard by using fencing and eliminating wood/debris piles appreciated by rodents
  • Many organic garden supply stores carry “beneficial nematodes.”  When these nematodes hatch, they eat flea larvae that may be in your yard.  They are moderately effective and very safe for your pets, but are sensitive to adverse conditions, so read instructions carefully for best results.

Control on Your Pet:  Flea products are classed into two major categories: Adulticides, which kill the adult form of the flea, and Insect Growth Regulators (IGR), which stop the flea at one of its pre-adult life stages (egg, larvae, etc).  Of these, adulticides are considered most effective and controlling infestation.   Both types of products are available individually or in combination with internal parasite or tick protection.   Because fleas are a year round problem, it is recommended that pets be on flea control year round.

  • Flea/Heartworm/Internal Parasite Combo Products: Available in both oral and topical forms, these products protect your pet against fleas, heartworm and internal parasites and are considered the gold standard of protection for your pet.
    Available Products: Trifexis, Sentinel
  • Oral Flea Products: Several new, safe and very effective flea products are available which kill fleas by affecting flea-specific neurochemistry while remaining safe for pets.  Several of these products help protect against ticks, as well. Available Products: Simparica, Comfortis, Nexgard, Bravecto
  • Topical Flea Products: While topical flea control was once extremely effective against fleas, they seem to have become largely resistant to most of the older topical products.  While some owners still have success with these topicals, most find that they simply do not work (Except for “Revolution,” see table below).  Available Products: Revolution, Frontline, Advantage II

Ticks:

Large Tick - Control Ticks on your PetTicks are another parasite that lives off of a blood meal from our pets.  Ticks physically attach themselves to pets (and people!), burying their heads under the host’s skin while they feed.  These pests are very common in brushy areas and around San Diego hiking trails in summer.  Thanks to the unusually wet weather this year, experts are predicting that ticks may be particularly populous this season.

Ticks are not only irritating and disgusting, but they are carriers of several debilitating diseases which can affect both animals and people.  Dangerous tick borne diseases include Lyme Disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis, and Tularemia (rabbit fever).  These diseases can be extremely dangerous or even deadly.  Luckily, ticks really do seem to be a spring and summer problem in San Diego county and only a limited number of San Diego pets appear to have exposure to ticks, so pet parents can treat “seasonally.”

Home Control: When considering tick control on your property, focus on making your yard less tick-friendly.  Ticks like bushes, long brushy grass, wood/leaf piles, and wild animals to travel in on.  To make your yard less hospitable to ticks:

  • Remove leaf litter
  • Clear tall grasses and brush around homes
  • Place a 3ft brush-free barrier between lawns/recreation areas and wooded/brushy areas
  • Mow your lawn frequently
  • Discourage wild animals from entering your yard by using fencing and eliminating wood/debris piles appreciated by rodents
  • Remove old furniture, mattresses or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.

Control on Your Pet: There are many products on the market which kill ticks on your pet.  The goal is to kill the tick and/or have it detach before it has a chance to transmit any disease.  As a result, the faster the product works the better.  Tick products come in the following forms:

  • Oral tablets: Just like oral flea control, tick control can come in an oral form.  These products kill ticks when they take a blood meal off of your pet.  Newer tick products kill both fleas and ticks quickly and effectively, and can be used in combination with certain heartworm products for complete protection.
    Available Products: Simparica, Nexgard, Bravecto
  • Collars: For clients do not want to give their pet oral tick control, collars can be a good option, and have been shown to be effective at killing ticks.  Collars should be on the pet for 24 hours before they are considered effective, so taking them off and putting them on when the pet is “at risk” will probably not work.  Additionally swimming/bathing can affect the product efficacy. 
    Available Products: Preventic, Seresto
  • Topicals: There are a handful of topical products which still seem to work against ticks, even if their effectiveness against fleas is waning.  These products are usually safe to add if the pet is already on a flea product but needs tick protection during summer months. 
    Available Products: Frontline/Fipronil, Advantage Multi

Mosquitoes

Humans may be more personally familiar with Mosquitos than fleas and ticks, as these flying blood suckers take their meals from humans and animals alike.  Mosquitos cause itchy welts on our skin following a bite; but worse, they are one of the world’s most prolific vectors of disease.

Around the world, Mosquitos cause more human and animal suffering than nearly any other organism.  Malaria, Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus, Zika Virus and Canine Heartworm Disease are among the disease spread by mosquitos.  While these illnesses are currently less common in San Diego County, they are becoming increasingly widespread.  Preventing the spread of mosquito borne disease is all about controlling the insect itself.

Mosquitos lay their eggs in standing water, making non-circulating puddles and ponds essential to mosquito reproduction.  One can imagine that the recent rains have made many areas prime breeding grounds, so eliminating standing water is essential. 

Heartworm Disease:  We would be remiss if we discussed Mosquitoes without bringing up Canine & Feline Heartworm Disease.  This disease, spread by mosquitoes, causes worms to circulate in your pet’s bloodstream, ultimately ending up in your dog’s heart (the process in cats is a bit different).  While heartworm has not been a severe problem in Southern California, cases are on the rise due an increase in the number of mosquitoes and an uptick in the number of heartworm positive animals moving in to our area.  Heartworm is debilitating, potentially deadly, and hard to treat so we strongly recommend that dogs and cats be on preventative all year round.

Controlling Mosquitoes Around Your Home:  The key to controlling mosquito populations around your home is to make the area inhospitable to their reproduction, which means eliminating standing water:

  • Remove standing water including bird baths, buckets, empty planters, flowerpots or trash containers.
  • Add fountains or waterfalls to ponds to keep water moving
  • Tightly cover any water storage containers, including rain barrels.
  • For particularly bad infestations, outdoor mosquito sprays can be used to control the population
  • Mosquitoes like to rest in dark, humid areas such as garages, carports or under patio furniture.  Concentrate insecticide usage to these areas.
  • Install or repair window and door screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.

Controlling Mosquitoes on Yourself, Your Pets and around Living Areas: Unfortunately, it is difficult to repel mosquitos from humans or pets without the use of sprays.  NEVER spray anything on your pet that has not been specifically designed for them.

  • Mosquito lights, citronella torches or candles can help keep mosquitoes away from living or recreation areas.
  • Some repellant sprays are available that can help keep mosquitoes away from humans and pets, at least temporarily.
  • Remember that sprays containing DEET and certain herbal sprays can be dangerous or irritating to pets.  Please do not use human sprays on your pet!

Dog Parasite Products

Product

Function

Form

Dosing

​Availability

Trifexis

Our Recommended Product:
Full Spectrum Product
: Combination Flea Adulticide, Heartworm & Internal Parasite Product

Chewable Tablet

Once Monthly with food

In Hospital

Sentinel

Full Spectrum Product: Combination Flea Growth Regulator, Heartworm and Internal Parasite Product

Chewable Tablet

Once Monthly with Food

In Hospital

Revolution

Full Spectrum Product: Combination Flea Adulticide, Heartworm & Internal Parasite Product

Topical (absorbed)

Once Monthly

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Simparica

Flea & Tick Adulticide

Chewable Tablet

Once Monthly with Food

In Hospital

Nexgard

Flea & Tick Adulticide

Chewable Tablet

Once Monthly with Food

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Bravecto

Flea & Tick Adulticide

Chewable Tablet

Once every 3 Months

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Comfortis

Flea Adulticide

Chewable Tablet

Once Monthly with Food

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Preventic

Tick Collar

External Collar

3 months

In Hospital

Seresto

Flea & Tick Collar

External Collar

6 months

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Vectra 3D

Flea & Tick Adulticide, mosquito repellant

Topical

Once Monthly

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Frontline/Fipronil

Flea & Tick Adulticide: Fleas appear to have become relatively resistant to Fipronil products.  Some people still find the product effective, and it does seem to be effective against ticks

Topical

Once Monthly

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Advantage II

Flea Adulticide: Fleas seem to have become relatively resistant to this product.

Topical

Once Monthly

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Advantage Multi

Full Spectrum Product: Flea Adulticide, heartworm, and internal parasite protection.  Fleas seem to have become relatively resistant to this product

Topical

Once Monthly

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Cat Parasite Products

Product

Function

Form

Dosing

Availability

Revolution

Our Recommended Product:
Full Spectrum Product: Combination Flea Adulticide, Heartworm & Internal Parasite Product

Topical (absorbed)

Once Monthly

In Hospital

Cheristin

Flea Adulticide

Topical

Once Monthly

In Hospital

Comfortis

Flea Adulticide

Oral

Once Monthly

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Program Injectable

Flea Insect Growth Regulator: Prevents fleas from laying eggs that can hatch

Injectable

Every 6 months

In Hospital

Frontline/
Fipronil

Flea & Tick Adulticide: Fleas appear to have become relatively resistant to Fipronil products.  Some people still find the product effective, and it does seem to be effective against ticks

Topical

Monthly

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Advantage II

Flea Adulticide: Fleas seem to have become relatively resistant to this product.

Topical

Once Monthly

Our Online Pharmacy:
Vetsource

Small Mammal Parasite Products

Product

Function

Form

Dosing

Availability

Revolution Fleas, Tick and Some Mite control:  Labeled for Cats, but considered safe for many small mammals.
​Often used for mite control in birds, as well.
Topical Varies, based on application In Hospital