Worried about fleas and ticks this summer? Not only are these pests annoying, they can bring a whole host of health issues to your dogs and cats. Here we’ll talk about tick and flea control, and how you can protect your pets.
Pet Talk: Flea and Tick Control
Summer’s long, warm days make for perfect outdoor playtime for the whole family, especially our pets.
However, with this abundance of outdoor activity comes an increased risk for our pets to carry fleas and ticks into our homes.
Not only are these pests a nuisance, but they can also bring with them a variety of diseases harmful to both humans and animals.
Both of these pests are attracted to the warmer temperatures, making it easy to hitch a ride on Fido as he plays outside. Luckily, ticks are fairly easy to spot.
“Ticks tend to accumulate around the face and the ears, but can be on any area of the body,” said Dr. James Barr, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
After attaching itself to its host, a tick then takes a bite, often too painless for you or your pet to notice. However, this bite can transfer many diseases or even become infected. If this happens, a trip to the veterinarian may be necessary to treat the infection.
Fleas, on the other hand, are more difficult to find.
Fleas are harder to find and also harder to get rid of.
“They can be found anywhere on the body, but like to congregate in dogs on the lower back and tailhead region,” Barr said. “Often, you may not see the fleas, but you will notice little black dots on your pet, called flea dirt.”
You can differentiate flea dirt from regular dirt by putting a drop of water on the dot of “dirt.” Flea dirt will make the water a reddish color due to the digested blood.
There are a number of possibilities for the transmission of diseases by fleas and ticks.
However, Barr explains that the actual percentage of bites that lead to disease transmission is unclear.
Dealing with flea control problems? Have you noticed your cat itching and scratching more than normal, only to discover she’s dealing with fleas? Read on to learn more about why it’s important to take care of fleas on your cat quickly, and how you can do just that.
Tackling Fleas On Cats
The most common flea found on cats and dogs is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis).
Occasionally, rabbit and hedgehog fleas may be found on cats. Using modern treatments, it is now possible to control feline fleas effectively.
Why control fleas?
While many cats live with fleas and show minimal signs of infestation, control is advisable because:
- The cat flea carries the larval stage of the tapeworm Dipylidium caninum. Cats can be infested with these worms by eating fleas during grooming. Fleas have the potential to transmit other infectious agents
- Adult fleas feed on cat blood; in young kittens this can cause weakness, anaemia and death
- Some dogs and cats develop an allergy to flea bites, which causes them to scratch excessively or develop skin disease
- Cat fleas can cause itchy bites on sensitive humans, typically around the ankles
Does my cat have fleas?
When grooming, cats may eat fleas that they discover, making it difficult to find adult fleas in the coat. An itchy cat, or insect bites on human ankles, may be the only sign of infestation.
The best way to demonstrate the presence of fleas is to comb the cat meticulously with a fine-toothed flea comb over a clean white surface such as a piece of paper.
Fleas and ‘flea dirt’ (flea excrement consisting of undigested cat blood) will be deposited onto the surface. If placed on damp cotton wool, flea dirt will slowly dissolve leaving blood.
Tackling fleas in the house
Frequent vacuuming will help reduce but not eliminate fleas in a house. Vacuum bags should be immediately and carefully disposed of.
Anything heavily infested, such as bedding, should be disposed of.
Treatments can be used to prevent re-infestation in a number of ways:
- Using long-acting insecticides to kill adult fleas on all household pets, and thus preventing reproduction
- Treating the house to eradicate fleas at all stages of their development. Treatment of the whole house is essential. All soft furnishings should be treated, including carpet pile and other areas difficult to reach. Gaps between floorboards, skirting boards and other nooks and crannies should be included. Vacuuming before treatment may stimulate adults to emerge from their cocoons.
- Cocoons are very resistant to treatment and therefore repeated treatments may be needed to completely eliminate all fleas from a home.
- Products with insect development inhibitors may be used on pets to prevent immature fleas maturing or reproducing. For these to be effective all potential hosts in the household must be treated. There are also products for the environment which target developing fleas. These products may not kill adult fleas.
To be effective, all treatment guidelines should be followed. Visit your veterinary practice for some helpful advice. For some treatments, there may be a time lag of weeks to months during which fleas may continue to develop.
Important: Manufacturers’ guidelines must be followed carefully to avoid toxic effects.
Flea treatments available for cats
There is a vast and confusing array of flea treatments available from veterinary surgeries, pet shops and supermarkets for use in and on cats. What may not be apparent is that these products vary markedly in their compositions, mode of action, effectiveness and safety.
Older products contain organophosphate, carbamate, pyrethroid or pyrethrum insecticides that kill fleas rapidly. They can be used safely provided instructions are followed very carefully.
It’s very important to follow instructions when using any kind of pest killer around your pets.
Pet owners must follow the detailed product instructions, as cats are potentially at risk of toxic effects from these older insecticides. It may be necessary to use a variety of flea control products, and these should be chosen carefully to avoid overdosing the cat.
If in doubt, seek veterinary advice. If your vet is prescribing flea control products, other medications or contemplating sedation/anaesthesia of your cat, then you should inform him or her of all flea treatments you have used recently.
Do you find that summer is the worst time for flea related issues with your animals? How do you keep your dog or cat safe and protected from fleas and ticks?