Our pets are an important part of our family. We shelter them, feed them, bathe them, and play with them. For many people, they’re as much part of the family as a sibling or a parent. But unlike our human loved ones, our pets can’t really communicate what it is that bothers them. If they could, I’m sure there would be a lot! Pet food lacking in flavor and you refusing to wake up when they want you to seem pretty given, but what about other concerns that may be more dangerous? Like pests that feed on your pets and make them itchy, irritable, and even ill? Let’s look at some of the common pests that may be plaguing our pets.
Fleas are definitely one of the most common pests that hound our furry friends. While fleas can feast on almost all domesticated mammals on the planet, cat and dog fleas love our cats and dogs the most. And by love, I mean love to feast on them. These cat and dog fleas aren’t specific to cats and dogs only though – if you have other pets like rabbits and hamsters, they’re okay with having them on the menu too.
Unlike ticks, fleas easily jump from one host to the next like transient travelers. Your pet can get them just by being near another animal that has fleas, or even stumble unto a flea that’s been lying in wait (they can survive for a few days without a host). They can cause itching, scratching, scabbing, anemia, restlessness, and skin infections.
If you discover fleas on your pets, take action right away. Your veterinarian may prescribe pills as a treatment for your pets, or you can give them a bath using medicated shampoo that kills these pesky parasites. There are also topical treatments available that come in the form of sprays, powders, and even ointment, though these target specific areas so you may be better off with the first two options for a general flea problem.
Ticks are quite similar to fleas and also feed on host blood, but they’re more dangerous in that they carry a lot more bacteria and diseases. Unlike fleas though, they tend to stay on one host for the duration of their lives unless that host expires before they do. They don’t fly or jump, but will lie in wait for another host. This is called “questing”, and ticks will hold on to leaves and grass with arms outstretched to catch the next ride that’s unfortunate enough to graze where they lie.
Some diseases transmitted by ticks are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), tick paralysis, canine hepatozoonosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis to name a few.
If you find any ticks, you should get rid of them right away. Put on gloves and use tweezers to pry them off as close to the tick’s head as possible, pulling straight out slowly and firmly. Do not jerk or twist, you want the tick to stay in one piece. After you’ve pried it off, clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
It’s suggested that you kill the tick by drowning it with rubbing alcohol or soapy water, flushing it down the toilet, or by wrapping it tightly in tape or similar material and then throwing it out. If you’d like to have the tick tested to see what diseases it may have been carrying, keep it alive and place it in a sealed container with a blade of grass and take it for testing. Check with local government agencies, or ask your doctor where you can send it for testing.
Yes, and they’re common enough that a few health advisories have been released about them in the last several years. In fact, in 2017, two counties in northern Arizona were found to have fleas carrying the bacterium that causes the plague.
That’s right, the plague, also known as the Black Death which wiped out an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia in the 1300s. Granted, we’re several hundred years in the future and we can thank modern medicine for the number of available treatments. Without treatment, death occurs in 30% to 90% in those infected, and they typically have only 10 days left to live. With treatment though, the risk of death is much lower at around 10%.
Still, as with anything, prevention is better than cure, right? So what do these fleas look like?
Well, they’re very tiny, at only about 1/8 an inch. They’re reddish brown in color with flattened bodies. They’re wingless but can jump to incredible heights at up to 7 inches vertically, and 13 incheshorizontally – which is really impressive considering how small they are. Like the Hulk, but flea-sized.
These tiny insects survive on blood, and are commonly found pet animals like dogs and cats (female fleas consume about 15 times their body weight each day, those gluttons). They’re external parasites that try to live off of one host for their entire lifespan of around 100 days.
If you find your pet scratching one too many times, that may be a good sign that they have fleas. Try running a fine-toothed comb through their fur. You’ll want to look for small brown shapes moving around. These fleas like to congregate near ears and tails of cats and dogs. You may also spot their fecal matter, which look like tiny black specks on the skin and fur.
Killing off adult fleas is relatively easy – there are a number of products out in the market that will take care of that for you. There are collars, lotions, creams, natural sprays, natural or chemical baths. You can also go to the vet and have them get rid of the fleas in the safest possible way.
What’s actually trickier is to make sure the infestation doesn’t reoccur. The eggs that fleas lay may easily fall off of the host’s body, that means that places where your dogs or cats sleep, may be breeding grounds for flea eggs. Same goes for a number of other places where your pets like to roll around in.
You may need to thoroughly clean your home and apply necessary treatment that’s designed to kill off fleas, with a focus on your pets’ sleeping areas. That also includes pet toys and other items or materials they regularly come into contact with. If your pets regularly come in and out of the house, you may want to have your lawn or landscaping treated as well.
Fleas may be found in a number of other animals as well, so be careful when you’re out hiking and stay away from dead animals you may encounter. Fleas jump ship fairly quickly when their host has died – and that means they’ll be in the hunt for a new one.
As it gets warmer, fleas and ticks might show up. These pesky parasites can cause problems for pets and humans alike. Although they might be small, they can cause a lot of damage that can be prevented if proper steps are taken.
Even though this is the case, fleas and ticks are commonly mixed up and although they have many similarities, let’s point out some differences.
Appearance and Activity
As you may have noticed, both fleas and ticks are extremely small. While a flea may be the size of a pinhead, a tick is usually a little bigger.
Fleas love to jump around and contrary to the common notion that they can fly, fleas actually just stay on one host for their small lifespan of around 100 days. But don’t be relieved yet… During this time, the flea can have thousands of offspring which can be a headache for you to deal with.
On the other hand, ticks are actually related to spiders (arachnids) and consume blood by digging/burrowing into the skin which is also difficult to find. “Tick” is really a term for many different small arachnids who are parasites. They can live from 3 weeks to up to 3 years, moving from host to host while having offspring.
Apart from creating a small rash on your pets (or you), these creatures can carry some deadly diseases. Fleas can carry many types of bacteria, including one that transmits the plague! Ticks meanwhile carry diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can cause neurological damage in severe cases. But don’t be too worried, if you take a few precautions, nothing bad will happen!
The best way to keep these parasites away are usually by using natural sprays that stop these bugs from showing up in the first place. Flea lotions, creams, collars, and other products are available for pets (and you when outdoors) to disinterested fleas. If you or your pet do get infected, go to a doctor for medicine. Ticks are treated the same way, but if you are bitten by a tick, use a credit card or other flat object to pull it away. Using tweezers can squeeze harmful fluids into your body. Talk to a doctor afterwards.
These pests don’t usually show up in residential areas so removal usually isn’t an issue.
Fleas and ticks are pesky parasites that cause disease and discomfort. Hopefully though, you can distinguish between the two and tackle any of the problems that you may face. Call Watchdog Pest Control immediately to prevent them from multiplying and further harming your family and your pets.