Fleas and Ticks, Be Gone!
Tips to Keep Your Pet Free of These Pesky Parasites
What do dinosaurs, mastodons, fleas and ticks share in common? All roamed the earth millions of years ago. Of the four, only fleas and ticks have managed to elude extinction and continue to harass and irritate dogs and cats all over the globe. These blood-sucking nuisances definitely possess a strong knack for survival. Today’s fleas and ticks continue to be quite prolific. A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day. After feeding on your pet’s blood, a female tick can lay as more than 1,500 eggs.
Fortunately, our pets have skilled allies in veterinary parasitologists like Michael Dryden, DVM, PhD. This distinguished professor at Kansas State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, is best known as Dr. Flea. He is arguably the world’s leading authority on fleas and ticks and has been leading the research on generations of flea and tick preventives since the mid-1980s.
And, who’s his biggest ally in the war against fleas and ticks? Conscientious pet parents who see the value of consistently giving their dogs and cats flea and tick preventive medications year-round.
“Many medications today that deal with fleas, ticks and heartworm disease work well, but the best one is the one that the pet owner uses consistently,” says Dr. Dryden. “We need to get away from a seasonal approach to controlling parasites and get into the habit of using preventives year-round on dogs and cats no matter where you live.”
Yep, with global warming and other climate issues, fleas and ticks have learned to survive in zip codes all over the country and beyond.
“The good news is in the war against fleas and ticks, we are in good stead,” he says. “The new generation of flea and tick products are remarkable at the speed of killing fleas not only when first given, but throughout the duration of the label. The key is following the label instructions and using consistently.”
TAKING ON TICKS
The sad reality is that there are more than 800 types of ticks capable of transmitting more than a dozen diseases, some lethal. These eight-legged parasites can put pets at risk for a host of diseases, such as Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, Bartonella, Canine Ehrlichiosis, and Bobcat Fever, with Lyme disease topping the list. Lyme disease can occur after a tick attaches to a dog or cat, bites the pet, and releases bacteria into the bloodstream. If the tick goes undetected and the pet is not on tick prevention, he or she can develop a fever, lameness, joint swelling, and enlarged lymph nodes. Untreated, Lyme disease can shut down the kidneys and cause death.
After taking your dog on a walk in the woods or a heavily treed area, get into the habit of doing a thorough head-to-tail inspection of your canine pal. Ticks like to hide in a dog’s lower lip, ears between their toes, and under the collar on the neck.
If you do spot a tick on your dog, the best way to remove it is to don rubber gloves and grab the tick with fine-tipped tweezers close to the skin and pull it out straight. Do not twist when pulling. Dispose of the tick safely by dropping it into a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and tightly sealing the bottle because the alcohol kills ticks. Do not drop the tick into the toilet because ticks have air sacs that enable them to survive in water. Forget the notion that you can use fingernail polish or Vaseline to remove a tick from your pet’s body. Neither option is effective. After removing and disposing of the tick, wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water and rinse.
“A dog can encounter 50 or more ticks from running in the woods,” says Dr. Dryden. “It may surprise people, but ticks are not able to leap, jump or fly. They wait on shrubs, grass, and bushes for an animal or person to go by and grab on. They attach within 10 minutes but may take hours to bite and transmit pathogens like Lyme disease.”
Yes, fleas and ticks are super survivalists. Your best defense to protect your pet is year-round flea and tick preventives and getting into the habit of thoroughly checking your pet from head to tail daily.
FENDING OFF FLEAS
Fleas cause cats and dogs to itch and bite at their skin in attempts to oust the fleas and ease the irritation on their skin. You may spot what looks like a rash or red bumps on your pet’s skin. In some cases, the skin may be crusty.
These itty-bitty bugs tend to congregate in the hair coat at the base of the tail, around the head and neck, in the pet’s bed, and deep within carpets and rugs. These six-legged parasites are brown, black, or red in color and less than 1/8-inch in length. You may also spot flea ‘dirt’ that resembles ground black pepper.
Without proper flea prevention, pets are at risk of suffering from anemia, flea allergy dermatitis, tapeworms, and a weakened immune system. Your veterinarian can recommend a preventative that is just right for your dog and cat as well as provide advice about what to do if you are dealing with fleas, such as helping the skin to heal. Skin topicals and shampoo therapy with ZYMOX® products can help to soothe and restore the skin and may prevent the need for more aggressive approaches. Fleas and ticks really do pose a health risk to our dogs and cats but the bottom line is there are several things we pet parents can do to minimize their exposure to these pests.