Flea and Tick Education
Fleas and ticks are small external parasites that commonly infest animals, including dogs, cats, and other mammals.
Fleas are wingless insects that feed on the blood of mammals and birds. They have flat bodies, making it easy for them to move through an animal’s fur. Fleas are known for their ability to jump long distances relative to their size. They are a common nuisance for pets and cause various health issues such as skin irritationandirritation and allergic reactions, as well as transmitting diseases. Fleas on pets can also infest human homes.
Ticks are arachnids, closely related to spiders and mites. They have eight legs and are typically larger than fleas. Ticks are known for their habit of latching onto the skin of animals (or humans) and feeding on their blood. They are commonly found in grassy and wooded areas, where they wait for a host to pass by. Ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and many others that can be contracted by both pets and humans.
Both fleas and ticks can be problematic as they cause discomfort, itching, and potential health risks for animals and humans. It’s important to take preventive measures to protect pets and yourself from these parasites, such as using appropriate medications, regular grooming, and maintaining a clean living environment. If you suspect an infestation or notice any unusual symptoms on your pet or yourself, it’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian or healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
How often should you check for fleas and ticks?
Inspect your pet’s fur and skin daily for any signs of fleas and ticks. Look for small brown or black insects moving on the skin or tiny, dark specks (flea dirt) that may indicate the presence of fleas. Fleas and ticks can be active year-round, so don’t forget to check during the cooler months too.
What to do if your pet has fleas or ticks
If your pet has fleas and ticks, it’s essential to take action promptly to prevent further infestation and discomfort for your furry friend.
Safely remove any ticks
We recommend using tweezers or a tick remover to ensure the head of the tick is fully removed. Isopropyl alcohol will help clean the bite area and may help the tick release. The longer the tick is on your pet, the more time it has to potentially transmit disease. Remove ticks as soon as you see them.
Consult your veterinarian
Reach out to your veterinarian for guidance, especially if your pet shows signs of common flea and tick-borne illnesses. They can recommend appropriate treatments based on your pet’s health, age, and any potential underlying conditions.
Use flea and tick preventatives
There are many options flea and tick preventatives on the market, such as topical or oral medications, sprays, shampoos, or collars designed to kill and repel fleas and ticks. Follow their instructions carefully regarding dosage, application, and frequency of use. Consult your veterinarian about which product is best for your pet.
Treat your home
Fleas and ticks often infest your pet’s surroundings, including bedding, carpets, and furniture. Wash your pet’s bedding in hot water, and vacuum your home thoroughly, paying extra attention to areas where your pet spends time. Consider using a pet-safe insecticide or hiring professional pest control services to treat your home.
Check for secondary issues
Fleas and ticks can cause additional problems such as anemia, skin irritation, allergic reactions, or the transmission of diseases. Monitor your pet for any signs of discomfort, excessive scratching, hair loss, or changes in behavior. If you notice any concerning symptoms, consult your veterinarian promptly.
Remember, flea and tick infestations require persistence and consistent treatment. It’s crucial to treat your pet for fleas and ticks year-round.
Common Tick-borne Illnesses
There are several tick-borne illnesses that can impact dogs. Here are some of the most common ones:
Lyme disease can cause generalized pain, lameness, or limping that can appear suddenly swollen joints, and fever. Many affected pets don’t show symptoms right away, or the symptoms will come and go. If the symptoms aren’t apparent, the disease may be widespread throughout the body by the time the pet is diagnosed.
Much like Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis causes lameness, joint pain, fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Infected pets may develop other conditions including a periodic loss of platelets, which can cause bruising and bleeding.
In the early stages of the disease, infected pets may have a fever, swollen lymph nodes, respiratory distress, weight loss, bleeding disorders, and, occasionally, neurological disturbances. The pet will then go through a sub-clinical stage and will not display symptoms of the disease. If the infection goes untreated, clinical Ehrlichiosis occurs because the immune system is not able to eliminate the organism. The pet may experience bleeding, anemia, neurological problems, and swollen limbs. In some cases, the bone marrow fails and the pet may require a blood transfusion.
It’s important to note that these tick-borne illnesses can have varying symptoms and severity, and early detection and treatment are crucial for the well-being of affected dogs. If you suspect your dog may have been exposed to ticks or is showing any concerning symptoms, schedule an appointment for testing.
Common Flea-borne Illnesses
Fleas can cause various illnesses to pets, some of which are:
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)
When fleas bite, they inject a small amount of saliva into the skin. Proteins in the saliva cause an intensely itchy response to sensitive dogs and cats. Itching and hair loss down the middle of the back to the tail base and down the rear legs is often associated with FAD. A single flea bite can cause itching for days.
Scratching, licking, and chewing are the most common signs that your pet may have fleas. These behaviors will often lead to the growth of bacteria, causing skin infections on your dog or cat.
Fleas feed on your pet’s blood. Very young, old, or debilitated animals with severe flea infestations may become anemic from blood loss.
Dogs and cats can get tapeworms from ingesting fleas. Heavy tapeworm infestations can be more serious in young animals and can cause a lack of growth, anemia, and intestinal blockages.
It’s important to regularly use flea prevention products and maintain good hygiene to reduce the risk of flea infestation and the associated illnesses in pets. If you suspect your pet may have a flea-borne illness, it’s best to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Should indoor-only pets receive flea and tick preventatives?
While indoor-only pets have a lower risk of encountering fleas and ticks compared to pets that spend time outdoors, it is still possible for them to be exposed to these pests. Therefore, it is generally recommended to provide indoor pets with flea and tick preventatives. Indoor cats can become infected with fleas by potting soil from indoor plants, other pets (like dogs) that go in and out, and your shoes/clothing from walking.