As the weather heats up, we become more aware of fleas and ticks. Most of us know how important it is to protect ourselves and our furry friends from these dastardly devils, but here are 8 facts about parasites you might not be aware of.
Fact #1: Fleas and Ticks Spread Disease
Fleas and ticks can carry serious diseases that can affect you and your pet. While it’s true that most people consider fleas more of a nuisance than a true health threat, they can also carry diseases such as Feline Infectious Anemia as well as Bartonella, the organism that causes cat scratch fever when an infected cat scratches a human. Tick-borne diseases that occur in cats include babesiosis, cytauxzoonosis, ehrlichiosis, haemobartonellosis, and tularemia. For canines, ticks carry Ehrlichia and Lyme Disease, as well as sometimes causing serious auto-immune diseases in humans.
Fact #2: Flea Bites Can Kill
Fleas can consume enough blood to kill a small or geriatric dog or cat. This is especially a problem for outdoor pets not protected against fleas or if they have other coexisting diseases in the kidney, liver or endocrine system.
Fact #3: Fleas Prefer Shade
Like us, fleas don’t do well in extreme heat or extreme cold. They prefer shade and temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees. Our biggest flea season is actually early spring and late fall. Here, in Apex North Carolina, year-round protection for fleas and ticks is critical because we don’t have weather temperature extremes in either direction for extended periods of time.
Fact #4: Fleas Love Comfort (and some ticks too)!
Flea eggs and larvae not only love carpet but also the cracks and crevices in our hardwood floors, spaces between floors and baseboards, under furniture and even between couch cushions! While rare for ticks to live in houses, some breeds can infest your home.
Fact #5: Don’t Wait for Infestation
Fleas really prefer our pets to us when it comes to feeding, so by the time we are being bitten, it is likely that there is an overwhelming flea infestation in the home. Our pets can be the first signal that there are fleas in the home. If your pet is biting at the base of the tail, assume fleas until proven otherwise. Pets displaying this classic behavior should be treated for fleas even if none are seen. Ticks are less discriminate about their host preference and will attach to pets as well as humans.
Fact #6: One Prevention Method Isn’t Enough
There is no single flea/tick prevention that is 100% effective. Therefore, daily inspection of dogs and cats, children, and yourself are necessary to reduce chances of exposure, especially if spending time outdoors. Remove any ticks as soon as they are seen, or call your veterinarian or your healthcare provider to ensure ticks are removed properly and completely from pets and humans.
Fact #7: Ticks Can Make Humans Sick
Most people are aware of Lyme disease, but ticks also carry several other diseases that can harm pets and people such Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesia, and likely others that have not yet been identified. Ticks can also carry a disease that causes a severe allergic reaction to red meat in people.
Fact #8: Most Conditions are Treatable
Three of the most common tick-transmitted diseases are annually screened for in dogs. Since pets are so good at hiding disease, an active tick-borne disease can sometimes go undetected. If your pet is positive for tick-borne diseases, we will identify and treat any infections. Most tick diseases in dogs are treatable if detected early on. Cats too can become sick from tick-borne diseases, though not as often as dogs because they are such proficient self-groomers.
There are many effective ways to prevent fleas and ticks from becoming a nuisance and health threat to you and your family. As the best vets in Apex, we’re here to help design a flea and tick prevention plan that best fits your pet’s lifestyle!