by Doc Halligan
- The life cycle of the fleas involves an egg, larva, pupa, and adult, just like a butterfly and females can lay 2,000 eggs in their lifetime.
- It’s important to realize that only 5% of the total flea population is in the form of adult fleas on your pet. The other 95% is in various stages: 50% eggs, 35% larvae, and 10% pupae that are not readily visible to the naked eye but are in your carpet, furniture, bedding, lawn, and anywhere else your pet walks or lies down. That’s why you have to treat the pet, house, and yard.
Fleas can be miserable for you and your pet, and not just from the bites. They can bring about a host of serious problems such as:
- Severe anemia: This condition is most commonly seen in very young or small pets with high numbers of fleas. Every year, kittens, puppies, and small dogs and cats suffer significant blood loss from fleabites that can actually lead to death from anemia. Signs include pale gums, weakness, and fatigue.
- Tapeworms: Cats and dogs develop tapeworms from ingesting a flea that is carrying the tapeworm larva.
- Flea Allergy Dermatitis: FAD is the most common allergic skin disease of dogs and cats. Animals that have flea allergy can develop a severe allergic reaction to a protein in the saliva of certain fleas that is left behind from fleabites. This condition causes severe itching, rash, and more. In dogs, it leads to hair loss and infection, usually on the rear legs or at the base of the tail; cats get scabs around the head, neck, and body. Medical treatment is needed.
- Plague: In rare cases, cats or dogs can get the bacteria that cause the plague from a rat flea or by ingesting a dead, infected animal. Symptoms include high fever, lethargy, and enlarged lymph nodes. Luckily, the disease is highly treatable if caught early.
Best way to determine if you have fleas is to look for flea poop or dirt, incompletely digested blood that looks like red-black pepper. Use a fine-toothed flea comb and comb along your pet’s back near the tail and underbelly, making sure the comb comes in contact with the skin.
- Ticks don’t jump or fly; rather, they position themselves on grass, shrubbery, or underbrush so they can hitch a ride with a passing victim, and then dig their heads in and start sucking their food of choice: blood
- Ticks are most often found in and around the pet’s ears, on the belly, or on the shoulders, but they can attach anywhere.
- A tick feeds by burying its head into the host’s skin, leaving its body exposed. As it feeds, its body becomes engorged and swollen with blood. Although the body is pretty disgusting, the real danger is the tick’s head, which is embedded in the skin. If you remove the tick improperly, you may end up leaving the head behind and putting your pet at risk for infection or abscess.
- Spring and fall are the two most active times for ticks.
- The three most prevalent diseases that are spread by ticks are Lyme disease, canine ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. It takes about 24 to 72 hours for ticks to transfer their diseases, so that gives you time to intervene and remove the tick before it has time to hurt your pet.
- In severe cases of tick infestation, pets can become seriously ill and even die from severe blood loss.
While some ticks are easy to see others can be as small as a pinhead To check for ticks, start at your pet’s head, being sure to check the whisker area, alongside and under the snout. Then check in and around the ears before examining its belly, back, and paws, including between the toes and tail. Gently comb the hair. If you come across a snag, it might be a tick. Stop the comb so you do not pull the tick apart and leave pieces of the tick on your pet. Part the hair and if there is an attached tick remove with tweezers, pulling smoothly and gently to make sure you get the entire tick
- Common household fleas and ticks are easily controlled with preventative measures, and today there are a lot of great products out there to help prevent, kill, and control them but you must treat all the animals in the household even cats that do not go outside to control your flea/tick population.
- Choices include oral medications, topical products or collars. Yard and premise sprays and bombs
- When using preventative medication, always read all of the instructions prior to usage and never use on debilitated, very young, sick, or elderly animals without directions from your vet. Never use dog products on cats and vice versa.
- Because the length and severity of flea and tick season change from year to year depending on the temperature fluctuations and humidity, I recommend some form of flea/tick control all year long!