When it comes to keeping your pet healthy and happy there are many different things to consider. Pest control may not be at the top of your priority list in the early days of pet ownership but protecting your four-legged family member from parasitic infections is one of the responsibilities that should be addressed as soon as he has settled into your care.
Two of the most common parasites to infect domestic pets in the U.S. are fleas and ticks. Both are small, wingless creatures that live on the outside of your pet’s body, surviving by drinking his blood. Not only do parasites consume the blood of your pet, potentially putting him at risk of anemia, they also carry a whole range of different diseases, including:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Mycoplasma haemofelis
- Cat scratch disease
Some of these diseases can be passed to humans living in your household, and all can make your furbaby moderately to severely unwell. In some instances, they can even prove fatal.
The good news is that fleas and ticks are entirely preventable! That’s right, although both of these parasites are very common, with the right preventative medications and by taking steps to make your home inhospitable to these creatures, you can help ensure that your furbaby remains safe from fleas and ticks.
Here is what you need to know about flea and tick control.
Prevention is better than cure
It is always much easier (and much more cost effective!) to try and prevent fleas and ticks than to treat them. This is particularly true when you consider fleas, which can dominate your home environment in just a matter of days! This is because fleas reproduce at a rate of around 40 eggs per day. The entire flea lifecycle takes just 22 days, which is shortened to 12 if the conditions are perfect, so it is imperative to get on top of an infestation as soon as you spot one. Even then, it can take an average of 3 months before your home is completely flea-free.
Types of preventative
There are a huge variety of preventatives available in many different forms, including:
- Oral medications
- Spot-on treatments
- Shampoos and dips
Which is right for your pet will depend on her species and size, and it is essential that you choose the right one, otherwise it could prove ineffective. In the case of oral medications, the wrong dosage could make your pet sick, or even prove deadly.
Different preventatives also have different protection timelines, so it is crucial that you take a note of this and follow up with further treatments as per the recommended timescale. Not doing so could leave your pet vulnerable to infection.
Examine your pet daily
Fleas and ticks can be difficult to spot, but early identification is recommended so that you can deal with the problem quickly, and in the case of fleas, before the infestation doubles or even triples in size.
For ticks, check all over his body for small, round creatures that may be between the size of a pin head and a fingernail. This is because they swell with blood. They range from in color from pale to dark. If you spot one, remove it immediately using sterilized tweezers, being careful not to get any blood on your pet’s skin or yours.
Fleas are harder to spot, but you may see flea dirt. This is flea feces that looks like specks of dirt buried in his fur. If you put some on a damp tissue it will smear red as it contains blood. If you find flea dirt or see a live flea, start treatment immediately.
Protect your property
Fleas and ticks can invade your property too, and fleas especially are more than happy to be uninvited and very resilient housemates! A fastidious cleaning routine can help keep them at bay. Vacuum daily, particularly under furniture and in small, dark crevices where these parasites might be hiding. Don’t forget skirtings and soft furnishings, both of which are comfortable spots for fleas to hang out.
Washing your pet’s bedding is an essential part of flea control, as is cleaning any areas where your furbaby spends a great deal of time. Wash bedding on the highest possible temperature to destroy fleas at all stages of their lifecycle.
Make sure that you empty your vacuum bag every time you use it. Flea eggs can stay dormant in a vacuum bag for several years and become activated when the heat and vibrations stimulate them.
There are a whole range of preventative solutions that can be used to repel fleas and ticks, speak to your local pet store or our veterinarian for a recommendation.
Our expert team at Heartland Animal Hospital has years of experience in advising our patients about the best ways to control fleas and ticks, as well as other types of pet parasites. We welcome the opportunity to be able to share our knowledge and experience with you. Please feel free to contact our Boiling Springs vet office with your questions.