Vet Blog

How Grooming Can Help Identify Parasites like Fleas, Ticks and Heartworms

March 17, 2019

Grooming is an important aspect of your pet's care.

Not only does it help her to look and feel good, but it can also be a valuable tool in preventing certain types of parasites. This includes three of the most prevalent - fleas, ticks, and heartworms. Here is what you need to know about how grooming can help identify these pesky parasites.

About Fleas

Fleas are microscopic parasites that have immense jumping skills. They lurk in spaces outside and on wild animals and can hop onto your pet when she passes by. Once onboard your pet, they will burrow down in her fur and bite in, consuming her blood to survive. They will then divide their time between living on your pet and laying eggs. Since they can lay up to 40 eggs each day, flea populations can grow quickly and be very hard to get rid of. Estimates suggest that for every single flea living on your pet, there could be up to 100 more growing in your home, irrespective of how clean you keep it!

In addition to drinking her blood, fleas can also potentially transmit diseases as well as causing flea allergy dermatitis - an allergic reaction characterized by rashes and intense itching.

How Can Grooming Help Identify Fleas?

Grooming is one of the best ways to identify fleas. This is because, as an external parasite, it is possible to spot evidence of them on your pet when you groom her. Although virtually impossible to see with the naked eye, fleas excrete blackish-brown particles that look a lot like dirt. This is known as flea dirt. If you were to put some on a paper towel and spray it with water, it would turn red. This is because it is primarily made up of excreted blood.

When you groom your pet by brushing her coat, if you aren't able to see fleas directly, you should be able to notice if there is any flea dirt. This indicates that your pet has fleas and requires treatment immediately.

About Ticks

Ticks are another external parasite. Unlike fleas, they are larger, typically flat and round, and very much visible to the naked eye. They also get larger after they have fed as their bodies swell with blood. Ticks are primarily found living in wooded and grassy areas, dropping onto your pet when she passes by. They attach to your pet using very sharp mouthparts and will spend several days drinking her blood. Once sated, they will drop off and wait a few days before finding their next meal.

Unfortunately, ticks are well known for being responsible for transmitting a range of unpleasant diseases including Lyme Disease and Babesiosis. They also have toxins in their saliva which can cause something known as tick-borne paralysis - a condition that can become serious.

How Can Grooming Help Identify Ticks?

Must like fleas, ticks can be identified by checking your pet over thoroughly when she comes in from outdoors, and by grooming her coat. If you spot a tick embedded in your pet's skin, you must remove it carefully. If any blood spills onto you or your pet from the tick, you or your furbaby could still become infected by any disease that they might be carrying. Wear gloves and use a special tick-remover tool. If you spot a tick early enough, you can prevent it from spreading the disease to your pet. This is because it typically takes between 24 and 72 hours after biting for the disease to be transmitted.

About Heartworms

Heartworms are internal parasites that live inside your pet's lungs, hearts, and neighboring blood vessels. They are transmitted by mosquitos, which transfer larvae into your pet's blood. The larvae then migrate to the organs and blood vessels, mature, and grow up to 12 inches long before reproducing. The effects of heartworms on your pet's body include compromised respiratory function, rapid heartbeat, and organ damage. If not treated, heartworms are nearly always fatal since they block blood flow and clog the heart and lungs.

How Can Grooming Help Identify Heartworms?

Grooming your pet isn't just about her coat. Although the condition of your pet's fur will eventually deteriorate if she has a heartworm infestation, you may also notice that your pet's chest is beginning to enlarge. This often isn't visible without close inspection and without feeling the area. A bulging chest can be a sign that fluid is accumulating in the lungs and abdomen, and they are becoming inflamed - a symptom of heartworms. You might also notice that she is thinning and losing weight, which are two more key indicators of an underlying health problem that could potentially be heartworms.

If you would like more information on how grooming can help you to spot parasites on your pet, or if you have any other questions about grooming or parasite prevention, we would be delighted to help. Please contact our pet resort and spa in Gainesville, FL by calling (352) 505-5304 and schedule your appointment today.