PARASITES AND TICKS
Ticks and fleas belong to the class of parasites. These petite creatures live by feeding on the blood of cats and dogs, resulting in discomfort and serious health issues. Fleas and ticks differ in appearance because ticks are tiny spider-like acaroids and fleas are small insects.
Biting signs of fleas vary in different pets. In some pets, it may not be noticed. Some might show signs of minor irritation and in others, who are sensitive to flea saliva, the biting causes flea allergy dermatitis along with excessive itching, redness, lesions, hair loss and even ulceration. Severe flea invasion in puppies and kitten can also cause anaemia. Flea bites can also spread diseases and tape worms.
Commonly found in Australia are the Paralysis Tick and the Brown Dog Tick. Among these two, the most dangerous for cats and dogs is the Paralysis Tick, which can easily cause death shortly after infestation if the symptoms are not treated. Ticks also transmit many bacterial infections.
INFO ABOUT FLEAS
Mature fleas are insects without wings, as small as a sesame seed and they feed on the blood of animals. Their back legs enable them to jump significant distances, their claws allow them to grip tightly to the fur of the host animal and their piercing needle-like mouth allows them to nibble through the animal’s skin and suck blood. A female flea can suck blood up to 15 times more than her body weight daily.
If a single flea finds your dog to be a good source of food, then others can also find their way too. During mating a female can lay 30 to 50 eggs per day. The laid eggs fall to the ground within 8 hours and after 2 days the flea larvae emerges out and shelters in dark places on the ground, under the carpets, coverings and bedding. For about a week the flea larvae feeds on the waste of the adult fleas, crumbs and dead flakes of skin and then these larvae spin cocoons around them to begin pupae formation. This stage can persist for many days. After about a week staying in a cocoon, the pupae grow into an adult flea and come out of the cocoon. It is at this point that they can infect a cat or dog nearby as the host. The life cycle continues. The life cycle duration can be as short as 12 days or as long as 180 days.
INFO ABOUT TICKS
Ticks are wingless and rely solely on the blood of animals to live for 3-4 phases of their life cycle. They have an organ called a Haller’s organ which is used to sense heat, carbon dioxide and a spur to locate other animals available for food. When they reach the source, they crawl and drive inside the animal’s fur, piercing into the skin to suck blood.
Paralysis ticks are the most dangerous. The adult female tick as shown in the picture can inject a toxin that causes paralysis. The paralytic attack starts with a paralysis of the hind limbs and progresses to cause complete paralysis of all four legs. Other usual signs are changes in meow and bark along with vomiting. As the infection proceeds, it affects the muscles of the throat and chest restricting the normal breathing process. If the animal is not given medical attention, death within 24 hours of biting will be likely.
A tick’s habitat requires humidity and mild climatic conditions. In areas with ticks:
- Examine your pet daily particularly when they return from outside or moving around in shrubs or tall grass.
- Thoroughly comb the pet within 4 to 6 hours of exposure to ticks, to reduce the likelihood of tick infestation.
- If you find a tick, remove it immediately by manually using finger nails, tweezers or a tick removing tool. Grip the tick close to the animal’s skin and pull it out in one swift movement.
- Look for the others and remove them as soon as possible.
- Never dispose the tick in your general rubbish. Instead, wrap in tissue or toilet paper, and flush down the toilet.
- If you cannot remove the tick yourself, take your pet to the vet immediately.
HOW TO CONTROL FLEAS AND TICKS
The best method to control fleas is to stop them from occurring in the first place. Luckily the recent advancements in Veterinary parasite control have made it possible to eradicate fleas from infesting your pets.
Newly introduced insecticides and insect growth regulators for both cats and dogs are easy to use and they are available in both oral and topical dosage forms. They can remove the present fleas and provide lasting protection from further attacks.
These insecticides work by either killing the parasite or by destroying the life cycle by preventing the eggs from developing into adult fleas. A veterinarian can guide you on which product to use for your pet.
Another way to minimise the chances of fleas attack is by cleaning and vacuuming daily and regularly washing the pet’s bedding and coverings. These precautions reduce the chances of flea survival in your home.
The topical and oral products which are effective against flea control can also be used to combat ticks. Tick collars are also available for pets. These methods of prevention can work well along with regular examination and removing ticks, particularly if your dog is habitual about visiting areas prone to ticks.
Your vet can provide you with information relating to the tick population in your local area.
Keep the natural outdoor territory clean and remove the organic waste, leaves and grass to further reduce places where ticks dwell.
WHEN YOU PET IS ATTACKED BY A PARASITE
Regardless of all your efforts to control, fleas and ticks may still attack. Immediately use a product to kill the parasite and prevent more of them from infesting your pet. The first line of treatment is monthly topical treatment including sprays, oral medication, shampoos and collars. In some instances injectables can also be used.
Consult your veterinarian for the accurate medicine for your pet. Remember once you have treated the pet by applying a topical application, spray, shampoo or collar you may still see live fleas or ticks on the animal. It does not mean that the product is not effective. For the product to show its effects, ticks and fleas need to consume the product. The time required for this ranges from a few hours to days.
SOME FACTS ABOUT FLEAS
- The cat flea is the most common one found on cats and dogs
- There are around 3,000 different types of fleas
- One flea can jump 600 times in an hour
- A flea can cover 33 cm long distance while jumping
- Within 30 days, 25 female fleas can reproduce 250,000 fleas
- A female tick lays 3,000 eggs
- Every time a tick travels from one stage of life cycle to other it needs blood
- A few types can live without food for a year