Fleas and Ticks
External parasites, such as fleas and ticks, are a common problem for pets and can result in severe skin irritation. In addition to being extremely irritating and causing skin problems, parasites can also carry disease that can cause serious illness and death. Fortunately, there are many medical options for treatment, control, and prevention of fleas and ticks.
Infestation and the Life Cycle: The flea life cycle can range from 12 days to 6 months. Pets typically get fleas from an infested area, often in places frequented by other cats and dogs. Adult fleas, which are brown and about the size of a small seed, bite animals and suck their blood. Female fleas begin laying eggs within 24 hours of finding a host pet. They can produce up to 50 eggs each day which fall from your pet onto the floor, furniture, your pet’s bed, or any other indoor or outdoor area where your pet frequents. Small, worm-like larvae hatch from the eggs and burrow into soil, carpets, or furniture before spinning a cocoon. Cocooned flea pupae may lie dormant for weeks before emerging as adults and starting the infestation cycle again. While fleas thrive when the weather is warm and humid they may be a year-round problem depending on your climate.
Clinical Signs of Infestation: Clinical signs of flea problems include:
- Redness and skin irritation;
- Scratching; and
- Black flea droppings left on your pet’s coat sometimes called “flea dirt”.
Besides common skin irritation, infestation can lead to more serious problems including:
- Open sores and skin infections;
- Anemia for young or small pets from loss of blood;
- The development of allergies to flea saliva, resulting in more severe irritation and scratching;
- Infection with certain types of tapeworms if pets ingest fleas carrying tapeworm eggs.
In areas with moderate to severe flea infestations, people may also be bitten by fleas. While fleas are capable of transmitting several other infectious diseases to pets and people, this is rare.
Treatment and Control: Your Bayside veterinarian can recommend the appropriate flea control for your pet. Regular vacuuming and cleaning of the pet’s living area helps to remove or kill flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. You may also have to treat your house or yard with insecticides to kill fleas. Consult with your veterinarian about products safe for use around pets and children.
Infestation and the Life Cycle: Ticks have a four-stage life cycle. Immature ticks often feed on small, wild animals found in forests, prairies, and brush. Adult ticks seek larger hosts like dogs and cats. Tick exposure may be seasonal, depending on geographic location.
Clinical Signs of Infestation: Ticks are most often found around your dog’s neck, in the ears, in the folds between the legs and the body, and between the toes. Cats may have ticks on their neck or face. Tick bites can cause skin irritation and heavy infestations can cause anemia in pets. Ticks are also capable of spreading serious infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, to host pets and people. Disease risk varies by geographic area and tick species.
Treatment and Control: Your Bayside veterinarian can recommend an appropriate tick preventative for your pet. When pets are in tick-prone areas, they should be examined for ticks immediately upon returning home. Ticks should be removed immediately to lessens the chance of disease transmission. Use tweezers to firmly grip the tick as close to the pet’s skin as possible and gently pull the tick free without twisting it. Once removed, crush the tick while avoiding contact with tick fluids that can carry disease. Do not attempt to smother the tick with alcohol or petroleum jelly, or apply a hot match to it, because this may cause the tick to regurgitate saliva into the wound, increasing the risk of disease. If your pet picks up ticks in your backyard, trimming bushes and removing brush may reduce your pet’s exposure to tick habitats.