What Are the Parasites Facing Our Pets?
What are the parasites facing our pets?
Fleas, ticks and other pests are part of the life of a pet owner.
Even if your pet is an indoor only cat, there is a chance that fleas could be a small problem.
Simply because you could possibly bring them in on your clothes or body (legs.)
Spring is the time in most areas of the country that fleas awaken and start their torment. In Florida where I live, we have a constant battle, as our weather seldom allows the critters to sleep.
Fleas are very interesting they are about the size of a pinhead and can leap to a height of about 100 times their size.
That might not seem like such a leap, but could you do it, considering your size?
A flea is one of the most adaptable pests we have. They truly were made for survival of the species.
A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day on your cat or dog, the eggs drop off, outside, in the carpet, in Fido’s favorite chair, on your bed and in 2 to 5 days they hatch.
The flea larvae feed on whatever organic debris is in the environment.
In a week or two the larva (a maggot like critter) spins a cocoon to live in while it changes into an adult flea.
In case you didn’t know it fleas can move and leap faster then Superman ever could. If you have ever tried to catch one you know what I mean.
Fleas need blood to survive and dog and cat blood is their beverage of choice.
Did you know that one flea can bite a dog or cat 400 times in a single day? That same flea can consume more than its own body weight in one single day and during its lifetime lay hundreds of eggs on a single pet.
In humid areas like Florida about 20 percent of the eggs laid survive and in drier areas less than 5 percent survive.
The numbers might sound small, but considering how many female fleas there must be, it is more fleas than we need.
If you live in an area where there is “winter,” your dog or cat can bring fleas into the house and they will survive in their cocoon until spring.
Fleas cause our pets to itch. An infected flea can cause tapeworm. Flea bites can cause your dog or cat to have a skin allergy. Fleas are an all around nuisance.
A sure sign your pet has fleas is, if buried in its coat you see signs of little black specks known as “flea dirt.” If you wet a paper towel or drop some of the “dirt” in some water you will see blood as it gets wet.
What do you do if you find fleas?
In today’s world we have many new products that make fleas hardly worth thinking about.
In the “old days” it was a constant battle to just get one step ahead of the fleas.
There were flea powders, flea sprays, flea shampoos, flea dips, flea collars, we sprayed the yard, we vacuumed until we hated to hear the cleaner going, we bathed the dog every week and sometimes tried to do the same to the cat.
We fumigated our houses with flea bombs.
Health conscious folks tried garlic and Brewer’s yeast, which did seem to have some effect, they said on the fleas.
Many of us resorted to flea combing our pets with a small fine tooth comb and then drowning the fleas in soapy water. That caught the fleas, but the process was very time consuming and our pets didn’t like being still for long periods of time.
Thank heaven for the “new day” and the modern ways to control fleas.
The new products work extremely well and take the “bite” out of controlling the flea population.
Today we can treat our pet - the fleas jump on, and then they die. The new products are great and work very well.
I have used “Advantage” for several years on my pets, they and my house are “flea free.”
There are many other products on the market that are very good: “Frontline,” and “Revolution” work similarly as “Advantage” as they are applied to the skin.
”Revolution” also has an ingredient that prevents heartworm.
There are many other monthly types of flea products and they work mostly to prevent fleas.
If your pet already has fleas the best product to use is one of the first three I mentioned.
Your vet is a great source of information, so if you are having a flea problem call him/her.
Most products can be found at your vets, in your pet store or on the Internet.
One of the most important things to remember is do not use dog flea products on your cat.
The same products are made for cats with a different formula. You need to know your pet’s weight as the products are made for particular sized pets.
Frontline also puts out a good flea spray. There are also dips for large sized dogs and of course, flea collars. Flea collars work best if put on before you see any evidence of fleas on your pet.
A flea lives about three weeks, but in the meantime the female is laying eggs and those eggs will mature into fleas. It is a constant never ending cycle.
Ticks: Ticks are another nasty pest we have to contend with when you have dogs and cats that go out of doors.
Ticks are a cousin to the spider.
Ticks are an 8 legged critter with the menacing ones located at its head. Ticks can carry several diseases such as: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, encephalitis, tick paralysis and Lyme disease.
Lyme disease affects not only dogs, but people and horses. Lyme disease can be found in every state in the U.S. but, Montana and New Mexico.
There are several species of ticks that especially like dogs such as the wood tick, the brown dog tick, and the deer tick.
They all like tall grass, wooded areas and areas with a lot of shrubs.
If you are taking your dog out into the woods, it is important that you check your dog over for ticks as well as yourself when your return home. A desperate tick will take you as second choice, I know as I have had them on me. YUK!
Ticks are rather like slugs, slow moving and easier to get a hold of than a flea.
Ignore the old wives tales of putting a cigarette or a lighted match on the tick, coating the tick with petroleum jelly, finger nail polish or lighter fluid.
There are two ways to approach removing a tick, wearing a pair of inexpensive latex gloves grab hold of the tick and rock it back and forth a few times to loosen its grip and then pull it straight out of the dog.
Another means and for me the best way is to use a pair of tweezers to pull the tick out of the dog. Placing the tweezers between the dog and the tick and gently pull it straight out. You need to get all of it out. I suggest applying a bit of antiseptic to the spot after you remove the tick.
Ticks go through 4 stages of life from egg, larvae, nymphs and then adulthood.
Some female species lay about a 100 eggs at a time while other varieties of ticks can lay between 3,000 to 6,000 at a time.
Interestingly it can take from a year to several years for a tick to go through all 4 stages of life. They need to have a drink of their favorite beverage before they can proceed into the next stage of growth and some species can go for years without feeding.
In the United States we have over 200 species of ticks.
With the exception of a vaccine for the prevention of Lyme disease there are no other vaccines to eliminate ticks. It is necessary to pick them off your pet or keep your pet out of areas where ticks thrive.
The Lyme disease vaccine lasts for only 6 months and is given usually only in areas where dogs are routinely out in the field and could pick up deer ticks.
There are many products on the market that are approved to help control fleas and ticks. Read labels, follow directions, consult your vet if you have any questions.
Most importantly do not use dog products on your cat.
Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are generally considered people pests, however mosquitoes carry the potential risk of giving your dog or cat “heartworms.” Heartworms are dog killers and your pet needs to be protected from the dreaded disease.
One of the most important things you can do for your pet is to have it on a heartworm preventative.
Your dog needs to be tested for the parasite and if your pet is heartworm free it can be started on the preventative medication.
Dogs that are already infested can be treated, but the treatment is not an easy thing for the pet or the pet’s owner to go through. Some dogs survive the treatment and some do not.
Prevention in this case is really worth the expense of the test and the cost of the medication.
I have not been aware of cats having heartworms, but I am certain in heavily infested mosquito areas it is very possible if you have indoor/outdoor cats.
Stinging Insects Bees, hornets, wasps and all the other stinging insects at one time or another come in contact with your dog. Dogs love to stalk things, they snap at the insects if they are pestering them and as a result they usually end up getting stung.
However, they come about it, a sting hurts and you need to help your pet.
Remove the stinger with tweezers and apply a paste using baking soda and a little water. An icepack can help reduce the swelling, too. If your dog has an allergic reaction to the sting and the swelling seems rather over whelming CALL your vet at once or take the dog to an animal emergency clinic at once.
Spring, summer and early fall are such beautiful times, but with the good comes the bad and that is why you as a responsible pet owner must be on your toes to help your pet be pest free.
Your pet is a member of your family and the extra effort is takes to keep your dog or cat comfortable and healthy is worth the effort, when you consider all the love you get in return.