Fleas and ticks are two of the most prominent concerns for pet parents everywhere, and they are the most common ectoparasites (external parasites) found on cats and dogs. Flea infestation is no joke, but if you have a pet struggling with fleas or ticks, this problem can feel even more hopeless.
If you Google fleas and ticks, you’ll most likely find pages of results leading you to an array of preventative sprays and collars before you find any real information. While it’s important to us at Cuyamaca Animal Hospital to help you find solutions to your pet care concerns, it’s equally important to us that you are well-informed about the issues at hand.
We especially want to dispel any misconceptions or myths around fleas and ticks, help you fully understand how they thrive and give you the tools you need for true flea and tick prevention. Here’s what you need to know:
Particularly in San Diego communities like Santee, fleas are almost an ongoing threat due to our climate: fleas thrive between 70-85 degrees, and in the summer when humidity is at its highest, fleas will multiply even more. While fleas are uncomfortable and itchy, you should also be aware of the more serious conditions fleas can lead to: anemia, flea allergy dermatitis, and tapeworms.
A lot of folks are under the impression that fleas jump from one animal to another, and that’s how pets contract fleas. Fleas can indeed travel on shoes and clothes, but once adult fleas have found a host, they never voluntarily leave. Pets are more commonly exposed to flea eggs, which are found in open spaces like yards and parks. Additionally, night-time critters like rabbits, mice, squirrels, and raccoons can carry these eggs which are then picked up by curious pups. It’s an important distinction to make: your pet likely developed fleas from the flea eggs she or he contracted from other untreated animals.
Why are fleas so difficult to get rid of? Part of the problem here is the notion that the pests invading your home are all adults and can be banished with products like Advantage and Nexgard. In fact, adult fleas only make up about 5% of the population. That means the vast majority of the fleas you’re going to deal with are flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. The afore-mentioned products are adulticides, meaning they only kill the adults.
If you’ve found fleas on your pet, you must also address the environment that is still nurturing flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. How to do this? Try:
Vacuuming daily for 2 weeks, and empty the vacuum each time. This will suck up the pupae and many of the eggs and larvae.
Boric Acid will dry up the eggs and larvae living in your carpet, but 20 Mule Team Borax (a more affordable option) will do the same. Be sure pets are removed to a safe area before using, let the Borax or Boric Acid sit in your carpet for a few hours, then vacuum. You should also use this treatment between cushions and underneath beds and couches. (If you need to send your pup to daycare after treating him for fleas while you do this treatment, send him over to Furry Friends Resort!)
Treat your yard every two weeks, focusing on shady and moist areas of the yard and under trees, decks, and sheds.
Keep up with your vet-recommended flea treatments year-round. Using flea preventative consistently will prevent adult egg-laying fleas from reproducing.
And here’s one last Flea Fact: A severe infestation will usually take 2-3 months to clear. That’s why many pet parents believe one flea product works better than another—they’ll switch to another after a month or two of no progress, and then see improvement.
As with the case of fleas, the summertime will see an outbreak of other external parasites like ticks. Ticks are blood-sucking arachnids that also pose their own potentially serious threats, like anemia. The most serious threat, though, is their ability to transmit diseases like Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichiosis, and dog tick fever (canine anaplasmosis).
Tick-prone areas include heavily wooded areas, forests, and parks, but can also reside on leaves and grass. It’s important to understand how ticks travel from their environment to host—it is not by dropping from trees, as some people believe. Ticks are actually quite smart: they can detect an animal or human’s breath, body odors, body heat, and even vibrations. Some can even detect a shadow and will wait in areas that are well-worn where they can find a host. Ticks will sit on the tips of grasses and shrubs, and then climb on to a passing host.
It’s also important to know that ticks have 4 life stages and that most species require a new host per life stage. That’s why ticks so commonly carry diseases. Once they drop off after feeding, they can transmit a disease to the next host.
The Dos and Don’ts of Tick Removal:
Do not remove a latched-on tick by burning it or smothering it with nail polish and/or vaseline. There is not only any evidence to suggest these methods are effective, but you can seriously harm your pet.
Do use tweezers, as close to your pet’s skin as you can get, and gently tug with steady and even pressure. This must be done carefully, as the tick can be crushed or separated, while its mouthpieces remain in your pet which will then have its own risks and hazards.
Do store the tick in a plastic bag if you think the tick has been on your pup for a while. If your pet starts showing symptoms of illness, then it will be easier for your vet to diagnose your pet.
How to avoid ticks altogether? Refer to the CDC recommended guidelines for tick prevention in your yard, but ultimately the risk of your pet picking up a tick from other areas outdoors may be out of your control. You should check your pets regularly, if not daily, all over his body but in particular around and under the legs, collar, tail, ears, and between the toes.
The best way to prevent fleas and ticks on your pets is to get in touch with us at Cuyamaca Animal Hospital so that we can go over the right preventative treatment plan for your dog or cat. It’s not advisable to take separate flea and tick treatments simultaneously, but we can come up with treatments that include both.
We know that each pet is unique and that each preventative plan depends on a variety of different factors about his or her lifestyle. Book a wellness exam with us so that we can learn everything we need to know about your pet and get him or her on the right track for a healthy, happy, and pest-free life.
And if you already have a recommended flea and tick preventative treatment you prefer or one that we recommended to you, feel free to order it directly from our online pharmacy! Easy as that!