Ticks and fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of cats and dogs, causing significant discomfort and serious health issues. Ticks are tiny spider-like acaroids and fleas are small insects.
Flea bites may go unnoticed on some pets. Some might show signs of minor irritation and in others who are sensitive to flea saliva, the biting cause flea allergy dermatitis along with excessive itching, redness, lesions, hair loss and even ulceration. Severe flea infestations in puppies and kittens can also cause anaemia. Fleas can also transmit other diseases and tapeworms.
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 in a very short time if your pet develops symptoms and is left untreated.
An Introduction to Fleas
Mature fleas are insects without wings, as small as a sesame seed and they feed on other animal’s blood. Their proportionately enlarged back legs give them an extraordinary jumping ability. Their claws help them hang onto the animal’s fur and their piercing needle-like mouth bites through the animal’s skin, allowing them to suck up blood. On a daily basis, a female flee can suck up a volume of blood that is 15 times heavier than its own body weight.
If a single flea finds your cat 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 will hatch and hide in dark places on the ground, in carpets or upholstery. For about a week, the flea larvae feed on the waste of adult flea droppings, crumbs, flakes of skin etc. Larvae spin cocoons to become pupae. The pupae can remain in this stage for very long periods of time. The cycle continues when, as soon as a week or so later, the pupae develop into adult fleas and emerge from their cocoons when they sense that a cat or dog, or other animal host, is near. This cycle can take as little as little as 12 days or as long as 180 days, from which time the cycle begins again.
All about Ticks
Ticks are living creatures without wings that are solely dependent on other animal’s blood to live for three of four phases of their life cycle. They have an organ called hallers, used to sense heat, carbon dioxide and 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 can inject a toxin that causes paralysis. The paralytic attack starts with weakness of the hindquarters that progresses to total paralysis of all four legs. Other early signs are changes in meow and bark along with vomiting. As the infection proceeds, it affects the muscles of the throat and chest causing difficulty in breathing. Death can occur in untreated animals in as little as 24 hours after symptoms commence.
The paralysis tick season varies depending on where you live. The tick’s habitat requires humidity and mild weather conditions. In areas with ticks, examine your pet daily, particularly when they return from outside or moving around in shrubs or tall grass. If you thoroughly comb the pet within 4 to 6 hours of exposure to ticks, it reduces the risk and prevents ticks from infesting the pet. If you find a tick, remove it immediately. Remove the tick manually using finger nails, tweezers or tick removing tool by gripping the tick close to the animal’s skin and pull it out in firm, steady motion. Never dispose the tick in a waste basket. Instead, wrap it in a number of tissue papers and flush it down the toilet. If you cannot remove the tick, consult your vet immediately, especially if you notice any symptoms of tick paralysis. Early treatment is vital for their best chance of survival.
Controlling fleas and ticks
The best method to control fleas is to stop them from occurring in the first place. Luckily the developments in Veterinary parasite control make it possible and easy to eradicate fleas from infesting your pets.
Newly introduced insecticides and insect growth regulators for both cats and dogs are easy to use, and are available in both oral and topical dosage forms. They can remove the present fleas as well as leave a long lasting effect to prevent further attacks in the future. The mechanism by which these insecticides work is either by killing the parasite and not allowing them to reproduce 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 flea attack is by cleaning and vacuuming the high-traffic areas 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 cat is frequently outdoors and visiting areas prone to ticks. The veterinarian can help you regarding the information about the tick population in your area.
What Happens When a Parasite Chooses Your Pet
Regardless of all your efforts to control, you may come to find that ticks or fleas have crawled on board your pet. Immediately use a product to kill the parasite and prevent more of them from infesting your animal. The first line of treatment would be topical treatment to be used monthly, e.g. sprays, oral medication, shampoos and collars. In some instances injectables can also be used. Consult your veterinarian for the best product to use on 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, but the fleas or ticks have to fully absorb the product before they will be affected. The time required for this ranges from few hours to days.
- Worldwide there are about 3,000 different kinds of fleas. Among them is the cat flea (Ctenocephalidesfelis) commonly found on cats and dogs.
- An adult flea can jump 600 times an hour.
- The documented jump for a flea (usually 2-8 mm long) is 33 cm.
- In just 30 days, 25 adult female fleas can reproduce 250,000 fleas.
- A female tick can lay about 3,000 eggs.
- Ticks need blood to proceed and complete further stages of their lifecycle.
- Some ticks can live more than a year without food.