Leave me alone, fleas! You're "tick"ing me off!
Let’s talk about fleas. Not like the fun “market” kind. Like the kind that infest your pets, get into your home, and make both you and your furry friends miserable. We’re also going to talk about ticks (I know, that’s a bad transition, but I really wanted to make the “market” joke!). While fleas and ticks can always be a risk to pets, particularly in warmer climates, flea and tick season in Missouri is March to December (American Kennel Club). Spring and early summer can be particularly harsh. In today’s C.A.R.E. blog, we cover the dangers of fleas and ticks, prevention measures, and how to respond if your pet gets fleas or ticks. LET’S GO!
There are over 200 species of fleas that can affect your pets (American Kennel Club), and they can either be transferred from other animals or by coming into contact with fleas in the natural environment. Fleas can be a persistent, itchy, annoyance for your pets, leading to constant scratching or chewing. For pets with sensitive skin or allergic reactions to fleas, consequences can be severe. The scratching and chewing can have secondary effects such as hair loss, skin inflammation, and infections (Pet MD)…not to mention the financial impact fleas can have on a pet owner, including getting the fleas off the pet, and in severe cases, home pest extermination. If you suspect your pet may have fleas, check your pet’s furry areas, belly, and inner thighs for insects that are a “dark copper color and about the size of the head of a pin” (Pet MD).
Ticks can be very dangerous to humans and animals. Ticks not only transmit Lyme Disease, but pose threats for other diseases, infections, and tick paralysis (American Kennel Club). Pets may not show any signs of having ticks, but it is good practice to scan them daily, particularly those that go outside regularly. Ticks can also infest your home and require an expensive extermination bill.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep fleas and ticks off your pets and out of your home. There are many safe and affordable products you can use for prevention, including topical and oral medications. Consult with your vet to choose the best option. Keep your pets out of natural habitats for fleas and ticks, including tall grass, piles of leaves, and brush. Additionally, visually inspect your pets daily to ensure you catch the problem immediately.
If you do encounter fleas or ticks, PANIC! Just kidding. Take the following steps:
For fleas, consult your vet to see what the best option is for your dog. They may recommend prescription products or nonprescription products such as medication, shampoos, powders, sprays, or flea collars. You can obviously obtain the nonprescription products without consulting a vet, but it is strongly recommended to seek professional medical advice. There are lots of considerations that need to be made, including medical history, size, breed, and age. The problem needs to be fully-taken care of to be effective, so you may need to treat your other animals as well as your home (Pet MD).
If you see a tick on your pet, the best thing to do to safely remove the tick is seeking vet assistance. If removed improperly, you could cause further complications, not remove the tick’s head, etc. Vet Street provides the following guidance if you try to remove the tick yourself, “Grasp it with a pair of tweezers as close down to the mouthparts as you can reach. Exert a gentle, steady pressure until the tick lets go.” Don’t remove with your bare fingers.
If the problem happens once, chances are you need to ramp up your prevention efforts (see previous paragraph)!
There you have it. Fleas or ticks can be a huge annoyance, particularly here in southwest Missouri in the upcoming months. However, by reading this blog, you’ve taken the first step (education) toward having a happy, healthy, and itch-free pet. Remember, contact your vet if you have any questions or concerns about fleas or ticks or if you’d like to start your pet on a preventative medication!