Does the thought of fleas and ticks crawling around on your pet make you squirm? They aren’t pleasant for your pet either! Both of these parasites feed on your pet’s blood, and they’re not only a nuisance, they can also transmit dangerous diseases to your pet.
What are fleas?
Ctenocephalides felis, better known as the cat flea, is a well-known pest to dogs and cats. Fleas are small (one to three millimeters), reddish-brown in color, wingless, and have six powerful legs that allow them to jump long distances.
If you see a flea on your pet, the unfortunate truth is that there are likely many more lurking around. Only about 5 percent of the fleas in the environment are the adult fleas that you can see. The other 95 percent of the population are:
- Eggs — One adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day. The tiny, smooth, white eggs fall off your pet onto the ground—or your carpet—and stay there until they hatch.
- Larvae — After about 48 hours, small, worm-like larvae hatch from the eggs. Larvae feed on organic debris on the ground, but their favorite meal is your pet’s digested blood that is passed by adult fleas.
- Pupae — Larvae spin silk cocoons where they develop into adult fleas. When they emerge as adults, they are ready to feed and begin looking for a host.
How can fleas affect my pet?
When a flea bites your pet, a small amount of saliva is left behind. Most animals react to the saliva and develop an itchy bump at the site of the bite. Although flea bites are annoying to pets, some animals develop flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which is a more severe reaction to flea saliva. These cats and dogs break out in an intensely itchy rash if bitten by even a few fleas.
Even worse than incessant itching is the fact that fleas can carry dangerous diseases that can be passed on to your pet (or your human family members!) during a blood meal. Fleas are known to carry:
- Murine typhus
- Mycoplasma haemofelis
- Cat scratch disease
How do I know if my pet has fleas?
Signs of flea infestation:
- Seeing fleas (even just one) on your pet or in your house
- Itching and scratching
- Red bumps on your pet’s skin
- Seeing black speck-like flea dirt (flea feces) on your pet
- Hair loss over the back and rump area
If you think your pet may have fleas, call us immediately. We can recommend safe, reliable products to kill fleas, treat your home, and prevent future problems.
What are ticks?
Ticks are members of the arachnid family, along with mites and spiders. When they are not engorged (full of blood), they are black or brown in color, flat, wingless, and have eight short legs. Ticks do not jump like fleas do, but climb up onto high grass or plants and grab onto unsuspecting hosts as they walk by. Ticks bite and stay attached from a few hours to several days feeding on your pet’s blood.
Like fleas, ticks go through several stages during their life cycle:
Larvae and nymphs look like smaller versions of adult ticks, but with only six legs instead of eight. Larvae are so small that they are only about the size of a poppy seed and are hard to see. Both immature stages need to feed on blood in order to mature to the next stage.
How can ticks affect my pet?
When a tick bites your pet, it causes no pain or itchiness. This is unfortunate, because most of the time, your pet has no idea it has a blood-sucking hitchhiker on board. While tick bites are not harmful to your pet, the diseases they carry certainly can be. While attached, ticks can transmit:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Diseases are passed from ticks to pets after they have been attached for several hours, so check your pet for ticks after they have been outdoors. Most of these diseases can be transmitted by ticks to humans as well.
What should I do if I see a tick on my pet?
If you notice a tick attached to your pet, don’t panic. The best way to remove it is to grasp it firmly at the point of attachment (head) with tweezers and gently pull it out. Never apply heat or chemicals to make a tick back out. After removing the tick, place it into a jar of rubbing alcohol to kill it.
After removing the tick, you should schedule a visit with your veterinarian for an examination. Bring the tick with you so we can determine which type it is and what diseases it might carry. Blood tests can be performed to check for exposure to tick-borne diseases. We can also recommend prescription products that will prevent ticks from bothering your pet in the future.