How to Prevent and Treat Fleas and Ticks
Flea and tick preventative for animals is an important part of being a diligent pet owner. As a carrier and victim of these parasites, dogs and cats can easily face multiple problems, whether infested or simply bitten by one. Fortunately, quality flea and tick preventative for animals is readily available to protect pets from a wide range of health issues.
Understanding Fleas and Ticks
Fleas and ticks are both external parasites that survive via the blood of their victims.
Fleas are flat, wingless insects whose females can consume amounts of blood up to fifteen times their weight and lay up to 27 eggs a day. After feeding and once ingested, a significant amount of the blood is excreted as feces and remains on the host (commonly referred to as flea dust). Once laid, the flea eggs hatch larvae. The larvae then feed off of the feces. Next, the larvae spin a cocoon and develop into the pupa, the transitional life stage from young to adult. The pupa then matures into an adult flea. The adult lives in the cocoon until it finds a host. It then feeds off the blood of the host and the cycle begins again.
Ticks are also bloodsuckers that are notorious for not only disease, but the inability to remove them from the body. Once attached, ticks can feed up to several hours. All stages of the tick, the larvae, nymph and adults, require blood to survive. While not all ticks carry disease, they are considered vectors (disease transmitters). There are multiple types of ticks, and each may transmit different pathogens that lead to different tickborne diseases.
Health problems Pets Face
Flea bites on animals can cause several problems that may lead to veterinary visits.
First, bites cause pain and itching, typically influencing the pet to scratch or gnaw at the location of the bite. If a flea is ingested during this time it can lead to tapeworms. Tapeworms are parasites that latch onto and feed off of the intestines. In order to eliminate the worms, a specific medication is required.
Next, if the area of the bite is aggravated enough by the pet, it can also lead to “hot spots,” which are irritated and inflamed areas on the skin. These hot spots can quickly progress into an infection requiring antibiotics and topical sprays for healing.
In addition, if an animal is infested with fleas, the amount of blood taken from the body over an extended period of time can lead to anemia and lethargy.
Ticks bites can also result in anemia if there are a large number of ticks on the animal.
In some cases, tickborne diseases will affect the pet. Some examples are Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme Disease. These illnesses can be treated if caught early enough yet become severe if left untreated. Symptoms of weakness, fever, lameness, swollen joints and even seizures can develop.
How to Prevent and Treat Fleas and Ticks
There are a number of flea and tick preventatives, including topical drops for both dogs and cats (7 to 8 weeks of age and older), as well as oral treatments for dogs. These products are designed to kill fleas and ticks within 12 – 24 hours by attacking the central nervous system of the parasite.
Topical, or “spot on” products, are applied directly to the skin at the base of the neck. They are absorbed into the skin and distributed throughout the body and onto the fur via the oils glands. By simple contact with the pet’s coat, the product kills the fleas and ticks. Oral products kill the fleas and ticks once they’ve started feeding on the dog or cat.
Once the parasite is affected they will rise to the top of the coat as they die. While this is often construed as the medication not working correctly, it is actually in the process of over-stimulating the central nervous system, therefore making the flea or tick appear more active.
The medications are to be administered monthly and used all year long to be effective. The topicals are waterproof, but an animal must not be bathed at least 2 days prior or 2 days after applying the product so that it can be absorbed into the skin properly via the oil glands. The oral preventatives are not affected by baths or swimming.
Some flea and tick preventatives are specific to species, so it is important to check with your veterinarian on the right product for your dog or cat.
Fleas are quick to jump from spot to spot and lay eggs. These eggs can be found in pet bedding, carpet, furniture and mattresses, all hatching at a later date. If there seems to be an abundance of fleas in a home or on a pet, treating the house is often a requirement. Eggs hatching, larvae maturing into adults, and those adults laying eggs again will form a persistent cycle if not addressed. Unfortunately, killing all life stages of the flea can be difficult and take time. Typically the best method is three consistent treatments: one treatment every two weeks for six weeks. This will eliminate every life cycle of the flea and prevent re-infestations that will affect both the humans and pets in the household. *Please make sure that all pets and humans are out of the house during treatment.
Prevention is the Answer
For just a few dollars a month, you can alleviate any troubling health issues that could result from a tick or flea bite. With the ability to choose from a wide selection, you can easily discuss with your veterinarian the best option for your pet. By administering these products you will save money, prevent illness and allow your dog or cat to live comfortably. As a result, not only will flea and tick preventatives contribute to good physical health, it will also provide you peace of mind.
Texas A&M University: https://insects.tamu.edu/extension/publications/epubs/e-433.cfm
Medicine Net: http://www.medicinenet.com/ticks/article.htm