An animal's true vampire: fleas and ticks. These small insects latch on to an animal's skin and feed off of their blood. Many wild animals live with a flea or tick infestation, but these blood-sucking creatures aren't only attracted to non-domesticated animals. Pets are perfects targets for such little critters. A dog or cat's fur is a warm and safe haven for fleas and ticks to call home. Here's how to find fleas and ticks on your pets.
First, it's important to know that these insects' diet of blood can cause numerous health problems for pets. Allergic reactions and anemia can develop from an infestation, and young puppies and kittens are especially vulnerable to the effects of blood loss. A tiny insect might not seem like it can do so much damage, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in numbers. Fleas and ticks often attach to animals in groups, and since just one flea can drink 15 times its own body weight in blood, imagine what kind of damage 100 fleas can do. This is why it's important to detect fleas and ticks early on, so that treatment can begin to rid your pet of this nuisance.
How to Detect Fleas
Fleas have a flat body on either side and are slender down the length of their backs. They measure no more than a few centimeters long and they look like dark moving spots to the naked eye. Fleas are known for the ability to jump great lengths, approximately 13 inches or about 200 times their body length. So, catching a flea is no easy task. If you are unable to see a flea crawling through your pet's fur, check for other signs of their presence. Fleas are often detected by little black specks that they leave on an animal's fur, which is flea feces. Fleas also lay eggs in an animal's fur, which look like tiny white balls. An animal's fur can become dry and irritated by fleas. Hot spots, dry or scabby skin, and hair loss are all signs of fleas. But one of the easiest ways to know that a pet has fleas is by their reaction to the symptoms. Constantly biting or scratching their skin are telling signs that your pet may have fleas.
How to Detect Ticks
Ticks are much easier to spot than fleas. For one, their bodies are about three times bigger that a flea's body. They are dark insects with round, flat bodies and tiny heads. Their legs are positioned at the front of their bodies so they can burrow their heads into an animal's skin. This leads to the second reason that ticks are easier to spot: they don't move around as much. Ticks can usually be found around the neck, head, ears, or eyes of an animal. They can often be felt through the fur of a dog or cat by running your hand across the head or neck of your pet. Ticks will become larger and a lighter brown as they fill with blood. Some ticks, such as the deer tick, are lighter in color. Ticks can carry diseases, which can be deadly for pets. These diseases can cause loss of appetite, joint pain, or fever. Ticks, like fleas, will also cause skin irritation. If your pet experiences any of these symptoms, check for ticks on the skin.
How to Treat for Fleas and Ticks
Flea and tick medication can be obtained from your vet or an online certified pet pharmacy to treat and prevent fleas and ticks. Flea collars can also deter fleas from clinging to your pet. Another preventative measure that can be taken is using products such as PetArmor, K9 Advantix, Advantage II for Cats, or Frontline Plus to kill fleas and ticks. If your dog or cat already has fleas or ticks, special shampoos can rid your pet of the insects. When looking for shampoos, check for brands that will offer the widest range of protection. A shampoo that will kill fleas, ticks, and eggs is the best bet for your pet.
Ticks can also be removed manually from an animal's skin. Using a pair of tweezers, grab the tick as close to the head as possible and pull straight up to pull it out. Be sure to not pop the belly or twist as you pull the tick out. Then, clean the area of the skin where the tick was.
Fleas and ticks can bite people too, so it is important to detect and treat them early for the sake of you and your pet's health.
More on Fleas and Ticks
Is Cat Flea Control Necessary?
The Flea Life Cycle
25 Startling Flea and Tick Facts
Advantage II for Cats
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.