How Can I Tell If My Pet Has Fleas and Ticks?
Tell Me More About Fleas and Ticks on My Dogs and Cats.
Fleas are small, brown or black, wingless insects with flattened bodies. Several types of fleas infest the hair coats of animals, and some may occasionally feed on people.These blood-sucking insects cause considerable irritation and distress to infested pets. Severe infestations may lead to anemia from blood loss. Fleas spread the common dog and cat tapeworm, and carry several viral and bacterial diseases. Flea bites also cause skin allergies, rashes and sores on both pets and their owners.
The best places to look for fleas on your pet are the hindquarters,base of the tail, stomach and groin regions. Sometimes no fleas are found but only tiny, black granules that resemble black pepper. This material is flea feces and consists of digested blood (“flea dirt”). To distinguish this material from dirt, smudge it on white paper or add a drop of water to it. If you see a reddish-brown color, your pet has fleas, even if you can find none.
After taking a blood meal, fleas drop off the animal and deposit their eggs in cracks, crevices and carpeting. A single breeding pair of fleas may produce 20,000 fleas in 3 months.
Eggs hatch after 2-12 days into larvae that feed in the environment.Larvae molt 2 times within 2-200 days and the older larvae spin a cocoon in which they remain for 1 week to 1 year. The long period during which the larvae remain in the cocoon explains why fleas are difficult to eradicate from the environment. A hungry adult flea emerges from the cocoon.
Since both your pet and its environment may contain fleas in various stages of development, a flea-control program must consider fleas on the pet as well as in the environment. This article describes a non-toxic program for flea control.
We should all be concerned about insecticide exposure. This exposure can harm both you, your family, your pets and our environment. The best organic method of flea control is daily use of a flea comb (a special fine-toothed comb which can be purchased in any pet store) on your pet and thorough vacuuming of the environment. Herbal sprays and a nutritional yeast + garlic supplement (not lower quality Brewer’s yeast) change the odor of your pet’s skin, and will help repel fleas.
I do not advise using toxic insecticides to eradicate fleas. There are many natural products available. Although they do not kill or repel the fleas as effectively, they are safer. Products like Vetri Repel, Flea Flicker, Tick Kicker, Neem Protect, Natural Enzymes, Richard’s Organics, Flea Busters, etc. will all help control fleas. Topical treatment of your pets should be combined with frequent vacuuming inside of the house and beneficial nematodes in the yard. The key to any flea control program is persistence.
The oral insect growth regulator Program is a unique pharmaceutical product with few side-effects designed to prevent flea infestation. Think of Program as flea birth control. By breaking the flea life cycle it will prevent infestations in the home. It is not an insecticide and therefore is not as toxic to your pet, however it is still potentially toxic. It also does not kill fleas. Adult fleas must be controlled using previously mentioned techniques.
Your veterinarian will help you tailor a flea control program for your individual situation. If you feel that you need to use insecticides please be sure to keep them away from children. Read the container’s label carefully when using chemicals and insecticides.
Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that infest most animals and sometimes people. Their life cycle is complex and involves one or more species of animals as hosts. Female ticks deposit their eggs in the environment after a blood meal.
Ticks attach to the skin and feed on the animal’s blood. Tick bites may become infected, and some ticks produce a toxin that can cause paralysis and even death. Ticks also spread several serious diseases of animals and people, such as Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis (Ehrlichiosis), Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
If only a few ticks are present on an animal, they may be plucked off individually. Tweezers should be used to remove the ticks as ticks may carry organisms infectious to people. To remove a tick, grab the head firmly while gently depressing the skin around the tick. Pull straight out without twisting. The Trix tick remover is the most effective tick removal tool that I have found. After removing a tick swab the area well with peroxide or alcohol. A red raised area is normal if the tick was embedded, and does not mean that your pet will get Lyme disease. Ticks need to be attached to your pet 24-48 hours to transmit the organisms that cause Lyme disease. There is also current evidence that prompt use of some topical products can kill these organisms (Borrelia burgdorferi) before they spread internally.
If you are unable to remove the head along with the body of the tick, usually your pet will eventually eliminate it as it would with any other superficial foreign material. Watch for any signs of inflammation, e.g. pain, oozing etc, in the area. Call your veterinarian if the area gets inflamed.
Please note: The information provided here is intended to supplement the recommendations of your veterinarian. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment based on information on this site. Nothing can replace a complete history and physical examination performed by your veterinarian. -Dr. Jeff