According to the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American pet owners cite the prevention of fleas and ticks as two of their top pet care concerns. When it comes to these parasites, prevention is always the best course of action. However, it's important that you're able to recognize the symptoms of flea or tick infestation so you can get your dog or cat the help she needs right away.
What You Need to Know About Fleas
Although fleas are wingless insects, they can jump up to two feet in the air. Their lifespan can be as short as two weeks or as long as a year. Unfortunately, they can produce millions of offspring in that short amount of time. Fleas feast on your animal's blood and can make him feel miserable. Some of the most common indications that your dog or cat has fleas include:
- Flea droppings on the fur that look like grains of sand
- Flea eggs that are tiny and white
- Scratching, biting, or licking much more than usual
- Loss of fur
- Allergic dermatitis
- Pale color to the gums
- Development of tapeworms
- Hot spots and scabs on the body
Since they are brought in easily from outdoors, fleas can live in your carpet, furniture, bedding, and other warm places where they can burrow. Once they find an animal host, fleas spend the remainder of their life in her fur laying eggs. A pet infested with a large amount of fleas can become anemic since these parasites can consume blood that is up to 15 times their own weight. Dogs and cats who are sensitive to flea saliva can develop allergic dermatitis, a condition that causes extreme skin irritation.
Ticks Are Prevalent in Minnesota and Wisconsin
Companion animals in the Midwest are at higher risk for tick-borne illnesses simply because we have more ticks in this region. Ticks are most likely to attach to an animal's body at the ears, neck, head, and feet, although you can find them anywhere. They are most active at this time of year since they tend to live in grass and tall brush where they can easily transfer to your dog or cat. Even indoors pets can get ticks when an outdoor pet brings one in the house with him.
Unlike flea infestation, your pet may not show obvious signs that he has been bitten by a tick. It's nearly impossible to see them until their entire body becomes engorged with blood. Unfortunately, ticks can transmit serious diseases to your pet, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anemia, and tick paralysis. That is why it's essential to do a tick check each night by running your hands down your pet's entire body. Don't forget to check her underside while you're at it.
Flea and Tick Prevention
Keeping your lawn cut short and eliminating organic debris such as leaves and rake clippings can lower the flea and tick population in your yard. Be sure to use a flea comb on your pet daily and to remove ticks immediately if you spot one. Washing your pet's bedding in hot water at least once a week is effective also.
Our veterinarians are happy to recommend the best flea and tick control for your pet based on his lifestyle. While we ask about flea and tick prevention at each wellness exam, you're welcome to schedule an appointment with Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo at any time.
Photo Credit: A Dog's Life Photo / iStock