Pests That Feed on Your Pets

By Dr. Bhanu Dev Sharma*

Your pet’s soft and warm fur provides the perfect environment for fleas and ticks. These insects feed on your pet’s blood and can cause health problems ranging from allergic reactions to serious tick-borne illnesses. Both fleas and ticks are more common during the warmer months, but you can take steps to beat them off any time of the year.

Flea Warning Signs

In dogs, signs are excessive licking or scratching, flea droppings (dark specks) in their fur, flea eggs (white specks) in their fur, and scabs on their skin. In cats, flea comb (fine toothed comb) is the easiest way to find fleas. Neck, belly, and around base of tail are the hotspot areas to check for fleas. Fleas or their dropping i.e. flea dirt can be seen in these areas. Signs like lots of scratching and hair loss indicate flea infestation on your feline.

How Do Pets Get Fleas?

Pets can easily pick up fleas when outdoors. Indoor cats can get them even if they just go out on the terrace or share their home with a dog. Female fleas can lay 40 to 50 eggs a day.

Fleas like human blood too, and they can jump from your pet’s fur or bedding onto your skin. Some people have a bad reaction to flea bites. If you scratch the intense itches, that can lead to skin infections. To avoid flea bites, keep your animals and your home flea-free.

Tick Warning Signs

You can feel ticks when you pat your cat or dog, and you can see them. They most often attach near the head, neck, ears, or paws. On cats, they are usually found around the ears and eyes. Ticks can carry diseases. If you find a tick on your pet, try to remove it as soon as possible.

How Do Pets Get Ticks?

Most likely dogs are to pick up ticks while walking in the woods or high grass from spring through fall. Outdoor cats can pick up ticks the same way. Ticks are more common in warm climates.

Ticks can carry serious diseases that affect dogs, such as ehrlichiosis or transmit Lyme disease to dogs and humans. Lyme disease causes fever and joint pain, and sometimes, serious kidney disease in dogs. Some ticks can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever that is fatal in dogs and may cause serious symptoms in people.

Signs of Tick-Borne Diseases –

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Joint swelling or pain

Other Tick Concerns in Dog include – Anemia, Skin irritation or infection, and Tick paralysis.

Anemia

Puppies and kittens are especially at risk. Signs of anemia caused by fleas include pale gums and lack of energy. Fleas can take in 15 times their own weight in blood. Dogs or cats that lose too much blood may develop anemia, a dangerous drop in the number of their red blood cells.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Fleas are the most common cause of skin disease in dogs and cats. When a flea bites, it injects saliva into your pet’s skin. It may trigger an allergic reaction i.e. Flea Allergy Dermatitis. Signs include intense itching, hair loss, scabs, and red irritated skin, which may lead to skin infections.

These diseases can have serious complications, so adequate treatment is a must. Tick-borne diseases are uncommon in cats, but they can get a tick infection, so do your best to keep pests off your cat and out of your home.

How to Get Rid of These Pests?

Plenty of options are available to choose from to keep your dog healthy, from pills and chews to ointments and shampoos.

Shampoos

Flea shampoos are usually not necessary because they are very harsh on skin and don’t have lasting effects. Any warm, soapy water will kill fleas, so any dog shampoo will kill the fleas on your pet but they’ll jump back if they are still in surrounding. You need to be careful if you do buy a medicated shampoo because some products for dogs can kill cats.

Collars

Flea and tick collars can provide safe, controlled releases of active ingredients that can eliminate existing fleas and ticks within days and prevent re-infestation. Puppies and kittens may need one with a lower dose of chemicals. Wash your hands with soap and water after you handle it.

Tablets

Some tablet options are also available, which dogs and cats can take by mouth. One type is a quick fix that kills adult fleas within 30 minutes. You can give it to your pet monthly, keep flea eggs from hatching. Some flea medications need a prescription. Also, there are dogs-only oral products to kill fleas and ticks, which should not be used in case of cats. Check with your vet to see which treatment is right for your pet.

Chewable Tablets can also be used according to weight of your dog or cat and their effectiveness lasts from weeks to months.

Spot-on Treatments

These treatments are to be put on your dog or cat’s back. They work well for a month. Some kill both fleas and ticks while others target only fleas and their eggs. Ask your vet which product is right for your pet because some dog products can kill cats.

  • Are Skin Treatments Safe?

If used correctly, yes. Using them wrong is a major cause of negative reactions. Common mistakes include treating a cat with a product meant for dogs, or using a large dog dose on a small dog. Check with your vet if you aren’t sure which dose is right for your pet.

Risky ‘Natural’ Fixes

Some natural flea and tick remedies can cause severe reactions in cats and dogs so check with your vet before giving your pet any type of herbal treatment. One ‘green’ strategy that does work is the flea comb. Flea combs are completely nontoxic and offer a way to remove fleas from pets that can’t take medication.

Keep Home Pest Free

It’s worthless if you are only treating your pets and not getting rid of these insects from your home. When fleas lay eggs on your pet, some eggs may fall off and hatch on your carpet, bed, or other furniture. The new fleas then target you and your pet, feed on your blood, and lay more eggs. Carpets and humid areas are favourites for fleas.

Ticks prefer warm, grassy areas and may thrive in unruly sections of your yard. They hide in hot spot areas like cracks, under rugs, curtains, and under furniture.

First defence is to make your home and yard unwelcoming to fleas and ticks. Mow the lawn regularly, trim shrubs, and keep garbage covered, so it won’t attract rodents. Inside, replace carpeting and keep your home as dry as possible to make your house less friendly for fleas. Mop floors with detergent. Use strong pesticides only for severe infestation. Wash all bedding often.

*Director Max Vets Hospitals Pvt. Ltd.

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