Almost all pets will experience an episode of fleas or being bitten by a tick at least once during their lifetime. Both of these wingless parasites survive by drinking the blood of their host, but despite their small size, are far from as innocent as they look. Preventing your pet from suffering from a flea or tick problem should be an immediate priority for any compassionate and responsible pet owner.
What are fleas?
Fleas are tiny, 6-legged creatures that are dark in color but nearly impossible to spot. Their small size and hardiness mean that they can live virtually anywhere, although they prefer dark, hidden places such as between floorboards and fencfe panels. They have immense jumping capabilities, enabling them to easily pounce on to an unwilling host. Once on board, it will bury itself deep within her fur and start to feed on her.
A single flea might not cause your pet to lose too much blood. However, fleas are almost never on their own. This is because they have a very short and highly efficient life cycle, allowing them to reproduce at a breath-taking rate. When you have an entire population draining the blood of your pet, it can make her very unwell.
Fleas also carry a variety of diseases, including Typhus and tapeworms, some of which could potentially have life-threatening consequences for your furbaby.
What are ticks?
Ticks a small, round-ish and usually less than 1cm big. They can be found across the country but prefer to live in locations that are humid and warm. Their numbers can grow during the summer months. Members of the arachnid family, they attach to animals who brush past them by sinking their mouth-parts into its skin. They grow in size as they feed then once they have done, they drop off and enter the next stage of their lifecycle.
Like fleas, ticks are also known for carrying a variety of infectious diseases, most notably, Lyme Disease. The saliva of some ticks also contains a neurotoxin that targets your pet’s central nervous system, causing a range of unpleasant and debilitating symptoms. In severe cases, the respiratory function is affected, putting your pet’s life at risk.
Protecting your pet from fleas and ticks
Fortunately, there are now more products designed to protect against fleas and ticks than ever before. In fact, many manufacturers have combined the chemicals used in them so that your pet can be protected against both fleas and ticks at the same time. The designs of these preventive products can vary, and can include:
- Spot-on treatments
- Oral medications
It is important to read the information about these carefully as each type of preventive is effective for a set amount of time. Once this lapses, your furbaby will be unprotected and vulnerable to a flea/tick bite. If you aren’t sure which preventive is right for your pet, our veterinarian at Prestige Pet Resort & Spa
will be happy to discuss your options with you and make a recommendation.
The importance of grooming to protect your pet from fleas and ticks
Another highly beneficial tool for preventing fleas and ticks is regular – and if you can, daily – grooming. Many pet owners mistakenly believe that grooming is purely a cosmetic task designed to keep your animal looking sharp. While this is absolutely an added benefit, grooming also gives your important hands-on, 1-1 time with your pet. This is advantageous for a number of reasons.
Grooming regularly will:
- Strengthen the bond you have with your pet.
- Remove dead hair and skin from her coat, helping it to look healthy and shiny.
- Reduce the amount that your pet will shed.
- Enable you to check for fleas or flea ‘dirt’. These black/brown specks look a lot like dirt. However, if you put them onto a paper towel and spray them with water, if they are flea dirt they will turn red. This is because they are actually flea excrement - blood.
- Enable you to perform a thorough check of your pet’s body, giving you the opportunity to check for unusual lumps and bumps – one of which could be a tick.
Many people believe that ticks spread disease the moment they bite into your pet. In fact, it can take anywhere from 4 to 24 hours for any infectious disease that the tick might be carrying to transmit into your pet. Therefore, by grooming daily and particularly after your pet has been outside, you may be able to remove a tick before it can pass anything nasty on to your furbaby.
Equally, dealing with a flea problem as soon as you suspect one is essential for preventing the infestation from getting out of control.
If you would like more information about protecting your pet from fleas and ticks, including advice about grooming for prevention, do not hesitate to contact our Gainesville, FL team and get in touch with our Prestige Pet Resort & Spa veterinary team.