Fleas and ticks
by Ontario SPCA and Humane Society | General Pet Care | March 23, 2023
What are fleas?
Fleas are small, parasitic insects that feed by sucking blood from mammals and birds. All fleas are uncomfortable for your furry friend. Animals can experience skin irritation, itching, redness, swelling and sometimes suffer an allergic reaction from the bites. Fleas feed on your animal’s blood, so it is possible for your furry friend to become anemic (low red blood cell count). This can become a very serious condition quickly, especially in young puppies or kittens or in cases of heavy flea burden. It is also possible for your companion animal to become infected with tapeworm if they ingest fleas carrying a larval tapeworm. Fleas can also carry diseases that you and your furry friend can both get.
Flea season can be year-round, especially when the winters are milder. Fleas can be picked up anywhere, including;dog parks, on trails, or anywhere an infected dog has been. Though adult fleas feed off the bodies of animals, they jump off to lay their eggs and can move easily from animal to animal. There are cat fleas and dog fleas, but they are not host specific, so they can be passed from one animal to another.
How to prevent
A good preventative program developed with your veterinarian is important for preventing fleas.
How to check for fleas
Using a flea comb, comb the hair against the fur to see the skin. Look for
“flea dirt” or spots of dried blood that look like black pepper. If you notice that there’s a lot of black peppery spots in the fur, that could be an indication of fleas. Check with your veterinarian first before using any flea products on your animal.
How to remove fleas
There are several life stages of a flea (eggs, larvae, pupae, adult). It is important to treat both the animal as well as the environment, as these life stages can survive for many months without a host. Consult with your veterinarian for proper treatment of fleas for your animal. Clean your home environment regularly and thoroughly to destroy life stages.
What are ticks?
Ticks are members of the spider family and are strong biters. They are attracted to three things: body motion, body heat, and carbon dioxide. Ticks are ground-dwellers, so they jump from low shrubbery, or the ground to latch onto your furry friend. They are usually found on the body parts of your animal that sit closest to the ground: neck, head, around the ears, the front part of the chest, and the underside of the chest.
Ticks can transmit several diseases including Lyme disease, a serious illness which can be spread by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. When a tick bites, disease transmission can start to happen within 24-48 hours. The longer the tick remains on the animal, the higher the risk of Lyme disease is.
How to prevent
There are ways to protect your animal from ticks. Speak with your veterinarian to learn about what products are best for your furry friends.
How to remove ticks
Removing ticks improperly can cause many problems. It is best to consult your veterinarian to ensure proper removal of the tick is done and to develop a preventative program for your companion animal. Some tick products kill ticks before they can infect your animal. There are also topical options, but if considering one of those products, it’s important to rely on your veterinarian to help you use it properly.
Clean your home environment regularly and thoroughly to destroy life stages. Don’t forget to consult with your veterinarian for safe flea preventatives for your other furry family members too, to help break the flea lifecycle.
Thank you so much for all you do
Thank you so much for all you do every day to rescue animals in need. I can’t imagine the terrible situations that you see every day. It is great that you have the heart to help. Keep up the good work.