Few creatures can inflict more misery ounce for ounce than fleas and ticks. One tiny flea can suck fifteen times its own body weight in blood per day and a tick can drink one hundred times its weight in blood. They also transmit diseases, some of which can affect humans or become life threatening. In fact, we are now seeing Lyme disease in our area. Treatment can be very challenging, there is no cure, and the disease can be fatal. Because of this, as well as our warmer winters, year-round use of monthly flea and tick preventatives are now recommended.
Here are some warning signs to watch for in your pets if you are concerned about fleas…
- Skin irritation/scabs – can range from mild to severe and may also cause skin allergies
- Agitation and scratching
- Pale gums and/or weakness in puppies and kittens or adult animals with severe infestation
- Weight loss
- Black specks in hair otherwise known as “flea dirt” (digested blood)
- Presence of tapeworms (tapeworm segments can look like white rice stuck to your pet’s bottom) – this is important because fleas often transmit tapeworms and other infections to pets
Fleas have been in existence since the dinosaur era. Fleas are dark brown and no bigger than a sesame seed. They move very rapidly over your pet’s skin and can often be found on the back near the tail. Unlike ticks, fleas do jump and can actually jump as far as 150 times their own length. Fleas, on average, live about two to three months and a female can lay up to 2,000 eggs over the course of her lifetime. They especially thrive in warm, humid weather. Depending on various factors, the flea life cycle can range from 12 days to six months. Keep in mind that if you spot one flea, there is a good chance there are hundreds more lurking in your furniture, carpet, or on your pets.
Fleas can transmit serious diseases to humans and animals.
Watch for these possible indicators of tick infestation and tick-related disease…
- Scratching and skin irritation
- Coughing and/or labored breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Lameness and joint swelling
- Lethargy and/or depression
- Bleeding tendencies
- Pale gums and/or weakness with heavy infestations
Ticks attach themselves to pets and feed on blood until they are engorged. In dogs, they are commonly found on the neck, ears, between the toes, and in the skin folds between the legs and body. In cats, they are found mostly on the neck and face. Ticks thrive in high humidity and moderate temperatures, but can be found all over the country. They dine on all types of creatures including mammals, birds, and reptiles, and are a part of the spider family. Ticks are not jumpers. Instead, they will sit in the foliage and hang out until your pet walks by, then they'll grab a ride. Adult ticks can live up to one entire year without a food source and they are active in temperatures of 40 F and above. Some common places to find ticks are in woods, meadows, and tall grasses. They are becoming an increasing problem in suburban backyards.
Ticks may carry and transmit diseases (including Lyme disease) which can cause serious health problems for pets and people.
The best way to keep ticks from attaching to your pets is to use preventive medication. If a tick is found, prompt removal of the tick is important as this lessens the chance of disease transmission to your pet. They can be removed at home with a pair of tweezers by firmly grasping the tick close to the skin and gently pulling it free. Burning the tick or applying harmful liquids to it are not likely to be effective and could injure your pet. After removing the tick, make sure you have the entire tick (leaving the head in the wound could lead to problems). You can then flush it down the toilet. For your safety, we do not recommend crushing ticks to kill them because tick fluids can carry disease. Lastly, if you’re uncomfortable removing ticks from your pet, please feel free to contact us at the Goodison Veterinary Center. We would be happy to walk you through the procedure over the phone or schedule an appointment to have one of our experienced staff members remove the tick for you.
OTHER EXTERNAL PARASITES
Here are some warning signs to watch for in your pets which may indicate other external parasites…
- Hair loss
- Severe itchiness
- Dark, crumbly ear debris and very itchy ears
Fleas and ticks aren't the only parasites contagious to your pets. Scabies mites can affect any mammal and result in an intensely itchy skin condition that often leads to secondary infections. Humans can get scabies from animals and develop similar signs. Ear mites are also transmissible amongst mammals and are frequently found in outdoor cats. They are extremely uncomfortable and if left untreated, can cause permanent ear damage.
PARASITE PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
Here are some things you can do to prevent these nasty little critters from taking over…
- Have your pets examined by a GVC veterinarian
- Get started on preventive medication (see below) seasonally or as needed depending on exposure potential
- If infested, consider treating your house – regular vacuuming and washing of your pet’s bedding can help; do-it-yourself insecticide treatment or professional exterminating services may be needed if your home has a heavy infestation
- If infested, consider treating your yard – limiting shady and brushy areas (fleas and ticks love them) and using insecticides may limit the population and decrease risk to your pets
For prevention of fleas and ticks, the doctors at the Goodison Veterinary Center recommend monthly use of NexGard or Frontline Gold for dogs and Frontline Gold for cats.
For dogs, NexGard is a great option for flea and tick control. It is an oral medication formulated as a beef-flavored chew that kills fleas and ticks for one month. It is approved for use in puppies eight weeks of age and greater who weigh at least 4 pounds.
Frontline Gold offers protection for both dogs and cats for an entire month following application. It kills 100% of adult fleas on your pet within 12 hours and will also break the flea life cycle and provide additional flea protection by keeping eggs and immature fleas from maturing into adults. Furthermore, it kills all stages of four species of ticks (brown dog ticks, lone star ticks, deer ticks, and American dog ticks), which includes those that transmit Lyme disease. It eliminates 100% of ticks within 24-48 hours of application. The product is topical, waterproof, and safe for puppies and kittens as young as eight weeks of age.
There are also combination products that protect against fleas and ticks as well as some internal parasites. Examples include Simparica Trio and Revolution for dogs and Revolution Plus for cats.
Simparica Trio is a chewable oral monthly preventative for dogs which protects against fleas and ticks, as well as heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms. It is safe for puppies 8 weeks of age and older who weigh at least 2.8 pounds.
Revolution and Revolution Plus are topical products which are applied monthly. In dogs, Revolution kills fleas and is effective against the American dog tick. This particular type of tick is the most widespread tick species in the United States and is the most common one found on animals in our area. It also kills heartworms. In cats, Revolution Plus kills fleas and three species of ticks (deer ticks, American dog ticks, and Gulf Coast ticks) and will also kill heartworms, scabies mites, ear mites, roundworms, and hookworms. Both Revolution and Revolution Plus are topical and waterproof. Revolution is safe for puppies as young as six weeks of age and Revolution Plus is safe for kittens eight weeks of age and older.
Please schedule an appointment to have your pet checked for parasites. We'll also work with you to develop simple but effective parasite prevention strategies!