Fleas

What are fleas?

Fleas are tiny insects that feed on blood. There are many flea species, but Ctenocephalides felis, the cat flea, typically affects dogs and cats. Fleas are brown, and have six powerful legs that allow them to jump long distances onto a host.  

How can fleas harm my pet?

When fleas bite your pet, they leave behind some saliva that causes irritation and itching. Some pets are allergic to flea saliva and will break out in an intensely itchy rash called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) after a single flea bite. Pets with FAD must be closely watched to avoid flea exposure.

The saliva that fleas leave behind can also transmit dangerous diseases to you and your pet, including:

  • Tapeworms
  • Cat scratch disease
  • Murine typhus
  • Mycoplasma haemofelis

Because fleas feed on blood, they can also cause anemia. Puppies and kittens with severe infestations can lose enough blood to cause death.

How do I know if my pet has fleas?

Adult fleas live on animal hosts, feeding on their blood and laying eggs. The fleas burrow down to the skin surface, so you must part your pet’s fur down to the skin in multiple places to find them. Always check around your pet’s face, chin, and hind end, all of which are favorite flea gathering places. Also, look for flea dirt, which is actually flea feces that looks like black pepper flecks and indicates recent flea activity.

If you find adult fleas on your pet, you can be sure many more fleas in different developmental stages can be found in your home. Adult fleas make up only 5 percent of the total population, with eggs, larvae, and pupae composing the remaining 95 percent. Fleas can lay up to 50 eggs per day, so just a few can quickly cause a full-blown infestation.

How can I prevent fleas from harming my pet?

Preventing a flea infestation is much easier than treating an existing problem. Our veterinarians can prescribe several safe flea-prevention products you can take home and begin treating your pet immediately. Purchasing these products directly from a veterinarian is always safest, as pets—especially cats—can have life-threatening reactions to some preventive products.

Ticks

What are ticks?

Like spiders and mites, ticks are arachnids. They are brown, have eight legs, and also feed on blood. Tick species found in New York include:

  • Black-legged tick (also called the deer tick)
  • Lone star tick
  • American dog tick

Unlike fleas, ticks do not jump onto their hosts. They use a practice called questing, where they climb to the tip of a leaf or blade of grass, stretch out their front legs, wait for a potential host, and grab on when one happens by.

How can ticks harm my pet?

When a tick grabs onto your pet, it burrows down to the skin, attaches, and starts feeding, remaining attached for a few hours to a few days. As they attach, ticks release a numbing agent so the bite itself does not hurt or itch, which allows them to remain attached and undetected for days, potentially transmitting dangerous diseases, such as:

  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Powassan virus
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Anaplasmosis

How do I know if my pet has ticks?

Ticks are found in wooded areas and places with high grass. They also hang out in backyards, So always check your pet and yourself for ticks after you have been outside. Look over your pet’s entire body, but particularly the head and ears, parting the hair down to the skin.

Ticks—particularly in the nymph stage when they are the size of a poppy seed—can be hard to see.  However, they do swell to several times their normal size as they feed, which makes them easier to find.

How can I prevent ticks from harming my pet?

Many products that we prescribe prevent ticks as well as fleas. Most are applied to the skin monthly, although other options may be available. Flea and tick preventives should be given all year long, because these parasites can live inside your home in various life stages throughout a cold winter.

Questions about flea and tick prevention? Contact us today to learn which products best fit your pet’s needs.