New Study by Merck Animal Health Reveals Many Pet Parents Unprepared for the Dangers Posed by Fleas and Ticks

Survey Coincides with Reports of Rising Human Illnesses from Flea, Tick and Mosquito Bites in the U.S.

Merck Animal Health (known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada) today announced the results of a large consumer study that exposes knowledge gaps among U.S. pet owners related to the identification, prevention and treatment of fleas and ticks. Conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Merck Animal Health, the new online study of more than 1,300 pet parents (defined as those who own a dog and/or cat) found that despite the dangers of flea infestations, ticks, and Lyme disease, many pet parents may not be as knowledgeable – or as prepared – as they think. In fact, one third (33%) say that they do not give their pets regular flea/tick medication and nearly half (48%) don’t bring their pets in for routine exams to protect against these parasites.
Overall, the study found that when it comes to avoiding and treating for these dangerous pests, pet parents tend to overestimate their levels of knowledge and readiness. Specifically, more than three in five (61%) say they are “very knowledgeable” about fleas and ticks; however nearly two in five (38%) were unable to correctly identify at least one symptom commonly associated with Lyme disease. Many similarly demonstrated some level of confusion over common facts and myths – including more than one in four (27%) who falsely believe that fleas and ticks are only active in the spring and summer months, and one quarter (25%) who falsely believe that ticks can only be found in heavily wooded areas.
These knowledge gaps are particularly concerning after a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that human illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites more than tripled in the United States from 2004 to 2016. According to the report, there were more than 36,000 Lyme disease incidents reported in the United States in 2016 alone.  Fleas and ticks can easily latch onto dogs and cats, and can spread serious illnesses, including Lyme disease. Once in your home, they can also bite and pose health risks to human family members. Ticks can be found in most states in the U.S.; the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions have particularly high risks of Lyme disease.
“Lyme disease has been found in every state in the U.S., and can be fatal to our four-legged family members if left untreated,” said Dr. Dan Markwalder of Companion Animal Hospital in Chicago, IL. “Since nearly all dogs and cats are at risk of picking up fleas and ticks and transmission of the disease occurs within as little as 24 to 48 hours, preventative measures are key. No matter the season or habitat, flea and tick protection is essential for all canine and feline pets, year-round.”
According to the study, almost three-quarters of pet parents (72%) don’t research flea and tick prevention, and only half (50%) say they treat their pets year-round. While some pet protection products must be given monthly, newer flea and tick preventatives can provide extended protection. BRAVECTO (fluralaner) is a prescription product that provides 12 weeks of flea and tick protection.i
“Fleas and ticks can carry serious, life-threatening diseases, and they are active in almost all climates and environments throughout the U.S.,” said Dr. Dottie Normile, Associate Director, Scientific Marketing Affairs at Merck Animal Health. “This study shows just how important it is for pet parents to be informed and prudent when it comes to protecting their pets from these pests.”
To keep pets safe from fleas and ticks, Drs. Markwalder and Normile recommend that pet parents:

  • Consult a veterinarian to have pets protected year-round
  • Check your pets and family members regularly for ticks
  • Remember that indoor pets are as much at risk of contracting fleas and ticks as outdoor pets
  • Visit a doctor or veterinarian right away if you suspect that you, a loved one or a pet has come into contact with ticks or fleas.

Additional Survey Findings: Young Pet Parents Know Less but the Desire to Protect Pets is Ageless
Younger pet parents (those aged 18-34) were especially susceptible to misinformation about fleas and ticks, and are more likely than older pet parents to falsely believe: fleas and ticks are only active in the spring and summer months (34% versus 24% of those aged 35+); ticks can only be found in heavily wooded areas (36% versus 19% aged 35+); and that dogs and cats living in urban areas don’t need flea and tick protection (15% versus 4% aged 55+). However, the study confirmed that nearly all pet parents, regardless of age, want to keep their pets free of fleas and ticks – with 90% citing that they would “do anything” to protect their pets from these pests.
Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Merck Animal Health between April 3-5, 2018 among 1,376 U.S. adults ages 18+ 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.