Fun, Sun, Fleas and Ticks

By: Dr. Veja Tillman, DMV

Florida is the perfect vacation spot. We have beaches, sunny weather, fleas, awesome fishing, entertainment, ticks and lots of great outdoor activities for the family and pets. Oh, did I mention fleas and ticks? That’s right Florida is known for its high population of fleas and ticks. Right now, is the perfect weather for these parasites to disrupt your vacation. They thrive in warm temperatures and humid weather (sounds like June to September). But what are they and what can we do about them?


Fleas are dark-brown and no larger than sesame seed. Fleas thrive when the weather is warm and humid. Depending on where you live, fleas may even be seasonal or a year-round concern. Your pets can pick up fleas anywhere an infestation exists (often areas where other dogs, cats or wild animals frequent). Once a flea has selected your pet as a host, it spends virtually all its time on your pet.

You may not know that your pet has fleas until the numbers increase to a point where your pet is obviously uncomfortable. Signs of a flea problem can range from occasional scratching to severe biting and chewing of the skin which can lead to skin infections and hair loss. Some pets even become allergic to flea bites, which can cause long-term discomfort from one or two flea bites.

Fleas are known to carry tapeworms which can infect your pets if they are ingested while your pet is licking or chewing to scratch the flea bite. If a flea infestation is moderate to severe, people may also be bitten by fleas. Fleas can transmit several infectious diseases to pets and people, however, this is rare.


There are many different species of ticks that can affect dogs and cats. Ticks are commonly found in wooded areas, brush, shrubs and wild undergrowth, and any animal (including humans) is at risk of becoming a tick’s host. Recent expansion into once wooded areas/ reserves has increased the incidence of pet and human exposure to ticks.

Tick exposure may be seasonal, depending on geographic location. You will most often find ticks around your pet’s neck, in the ears, in the folds between the legs and the body, and between the toes, but they can be found anywhere on the body and are usually easily seen or felt. Tick bites can cause skin irritation and heavy infestations can cause serious health concerns.

Ticks can spread serious infectious diseases (such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and others) to the pets and the people on which they feed. They can also cause tick paralysis. Disease risk varies by geographic area and tick species.


Pets at risk for fleas and ticks should be evaluated by your veterinarian and appropriate treatment plans recommended. Treatment plans are recommended based on seasonality of the infestation, your pet’s environment, needs and health, and the severity and type of infestation present.

Treatment plans may include a single treatment or combination of treatments for your pet, its environment (yard, furniture, floors, car etc.), bedding, grooming tools and treatment of other pets in the home. Treatments may include frequent bathing, preventatives or controlling agents, medications to eliminate the infestation and other supportive care medications to treat secondary effects of the infestation (Antibiotics, allergy medications, etc.). You should always pre-treat your pets for fleas and ticks before going on trips or vacations with approved flea and tick medication.

Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate course of action and suggest ways to prevent future infestations of your pet(s).


  • Start flea and tick control before you leave for vacation or ahead of the flea and tick season.
  • Look for fleas, ticks, and hair coat abnormalities any time you groom your dog or cat or when you return home from areas that are likely to have higher numbers of these parasites.
  • Consult your veterinarian if your pet excessively scratches, chews, or licks his/her coat, or persistently shakes his/her head or scratches his/her ears.
  • Leave treatment to the experts. Your veterinarian offers clinical expertise and can assist you in identifying products that are most likely to control and treat your pet’s parasite problem effectively and safely.


Dr. Tillman is a 2002 graduate of Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine. Her veterinary practice and work experience focuses on pet health and wellness. She is the owner of Just 4 Pets Wellness Center and can be reached at 239-270-5721.

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