There are a variety of steps you can take to prevent infestations.
Fleas and ticks have long been the scourge of dogs and cats. These persistent pests evolved to prey on furry mammals and have done so for eons. What makes us think we can stop them now?
Although we can’t prevent a flea or tick from ever landing on our dog or cat, we can do a lot to reduce the amount of harm these pests can do. By using good environmental management and taking advantage of scientific discoveries in the area of parasite control, you can keep your pets relatively free of fleas and ticks.
What They Do
Fleas and ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts. When a flea or tick bites a dog or cat, it injects a little bit of its saliva into the wound. Dogs and cats that are sensitive to the protein in the pests’ saliva can develop a nagging allergy that causes itching and even hair loss.
Fleas and ticks can also transmit diseases into their hosts bloodstream, and are known for spreading a number of dangerous viral and bacterial illnesses.
The flea’s lifecycle starts with an adult that feeds on a pet, obtaining nutrients that enable it to reproduce. The flea lays its eggs on the host, and the eggs drop to the ground. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on organic matter and eventually pupate. An adult flea emerges from the pupa and jumps onto a host mammal to continue the cycle.
Ticks attach to their host to feed, and then drop off to lay eggs. Ticks can’t jump, so young ticks climb up onto vegetation to wait for a host to walk past so they can latch on and begin the cycle again.
The first step to keeping these pests off your pet is to use a flea and tick deterrent. Sprays, collars and special baths can help, but the most effective methods of control are in the form of once-a-month spot-on treatments applied to the skin or oral products in the form of a chewable tablet. These products prevent fleas and ticks from reproducing, and some kill the flea or tick when it bites. Your veterinarian can provide you with advice on the most effective products to use. (Even indoor cats can pick up fleas through window screens and cracks under doors, so be sure to discuss protecting your cat with your veterinarian.)
Managing your pet’s environment can also help keep these pests at bay. Get rid of tall weeds growing on your property since ticks love to dwell in dense vegetation. Before going hiking with your dog, apply a tick repellent spray to discourage ticks from latching on.
Inside your home, wash your pet’s bedding frequently in hot water and vacuum your carpets often, tossing the vacuum bag outside in the trash right away. This will help keep flea eggs from hatching indoors and infesting your pet.
If you are diligent about giving your pet a monthly pest control treatment and making your pet’s environment hostile to these parasites, you’ll go a long way to keeping your pet free of fleas and ticks.
About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com and hollywoodhoofbeats.net/