Fleas

What are fleas?
Fleas are tiny, wingless parasites that survive by sucking blood from dogs and cats, and, sometimes, people or other mammals.

How do pets become infested with fleas?
Fleas infest pets that come in contact with an infested animal or its living area.

What are the intial signs of flea infestion?
Vigorous scratching, restlessness, and nervous chewing of the tail are often the first signs noticed. Tiny red bumps (flea bites), fleas, or flea dirt (excrement) may be seen.

What problems do fleas cause?
Fleas cause irritation by biting the skin to suck blood. Also, flea saliva contains a chemical that can cause an allergic reaction, resulting in itching and reddened skin. Some allergic dogs develop hot spots distinct areas of irritated, angry-red weeping skin. Others develop a chronic (long-term) irritation over large areas of skin.

Cats show signs varying from mild irritation to severe itching and hair loss. Allergic cats may develop reddened or crusted areas on the back.

Fleas can transmit tapeworms. Pets that are infested with fleas should be examined around the anus for evidence of small, white tapeworm segments. Fresh fecal (stool) samples should be inspected for tapeworm segments and a microscopic fecal test performed to check for tapeworm eggs.

How is flea infestation diagnosed?
Diagnosis is based on the presence of fleas or black flecks of flea diret aroun the animal's tail, rump, neck, and underline.

How are fleas eliminated?
A flea spend most of the four stages of its life (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) not on the animal itself, but in its living area. It can be difficult to rid a home or kennel of fleas. Sometimes a professional exterminator is required. Adult fleas are more susceptible to treatment with pesticides than are immature fleas.

To eradicate fleas, treatment of the animal and its living area must be repeated as the immature fleas develop into adults. The life cycle of the flea does not follow a strict schedule. Adults mate and lay eggs that hatch into larvae. Larvae live in cracks, carpeting, and around baseboards. They eat debris and decayed animal matter (dried blood and dander). The next stage the pupae. It hatches faster in warm, moist conditions but may remain dormant for months. If conditions are favorable, the life cycle is completed in about a month.

Because the life cycle varies and immature stages are difficult to eliminate, success depends on thorough and repeated simultaneous treatments of all animals and their living areas. Usually, fleas can be eradicated in 24 to 72 hours.

For best results, use foggers or sprays recommeded for flea control in homes and kennels. Vacuum the house often, including before and after use of pesticides. Vacuum corners, baseboards, rugs, drapes, and under furniture. After each use, empty the contents of the vacuum cleaner in an outside trash can. Hang rugs, mats, and bedding in the sun. Wash your pet's bedding often.

Follow your veterinarian's recommendations for using flea dips or shampoos for pets. Use a topical serum (ie. Biospot or Frontline). Read labels carefully. There is risk of toxic reaction from careless use of flea control products. Cats are especially sensitive. Many products suitable for adult dogs cannot be used on cats and puppies.

How can you prevent flea infestation?
Good grooming is essential. Flea collars, spray and shampoos are important aids for preventing fleas on both dogs and cats.

Ticks

What are ticks?
Ticks are tiny arthropod parasites that suck blood from animals. The life cycle of the tick includes four stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult.

Female ticks lay eggs on the ground or in cracks and crevices indoors. The eggs hatch into tiny larvae that attach to a host animal and later develop into nymphs and then into adults, all of which feed on the host. These adults mate, and the female tick, which may weigh 300 times more than it initially did before feeding, drops to the ground to lay eggs.

What problems do ticks cause?
Ticks irritate the skin and cause inflammation at the feeding sites. In additon, they mary carry disease agents (bacteria, viruses, and protozoa) that can be transmitted to the hose animal. Female ticks also can paralyze the hose animal by producing a neurotoxin, a substance that is poisonous or destructive to the nervous system.

What are the signs of infestation?
An infested animal may scratch, lick, or bite itself in an effort to remove ticks. An animal with ticks in its ears may shake it head repeatedly.

Ticks, which can be seen with the naked eye, are often found feeding on their host's ears, head, and neck.

What is the treatment?
Use flea shampoo or a topical serum or professional flea/tick "dipping".

One type of tick, the brown dog tick, can infest homes and kennels. To eliminate this tick, use
insecticides or consult a professional exterminator. Deer ticks can transmit Lyme Disease to you or your pet!

 



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