Luckily there are ways to prevent an infestation on your pets and your home, and My Best Friend Veterinary Center can help!
Fleas on Dogs and Cats
Fleas are a common cause of disease and discomfort in dogs and cats. In the US, the common cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the predominant flea species that affects our pets and wildlife. These little bugs are commonly found on wild mammals and in our yards, often carried there by mice, rabbits, or other animals.
The flea will bite their host to feed on the blood before reproducing and laying eggs. A single flea can lay over 40 eggs a day, which can stay viable for up to 9 months before hatching. The flea eggs survive best in shady, protected areas near the ground. This means carpet and upholstery are ideal places in your home for flea eggs.
Fleas also love warm environments. So although fleas are not as active in the winter, it is still warm indoors all year-round in St. Louis. It only takes a couple of warm days for fleas to become active and hitch a ride inside, especially considering our recently mild winter seasons.
Signs of Fleas
There are many signs that accompany fleas, including…
- Pet is scratching more than usual – Flea bites are itchy. If your pet is getting bitten, usually the first sign is that they are scratching or chewing more than usual. It doesn’t take long for things to get out of control and for your pets to become miserable. This is especially true in the animals that are allergic to flea bites and will develop a strong reaction to even a single bite—which can remain itchy for weeks!
- Flea dirt – This is the digested blood meal from the flea. It is often described as pepper-like flakes in the dog or cat’s hair coat.
- Live fleas on the skin – You may notice live fleas if you look closely at their skin but, often, you might not see anything. This is especially true in cats, who are very effective groomers and will end up ingesting the adult fleas before you have a chance to see them.
Ticks on Dogs and Cats
Ticks are less associated with acute itching and skin problems but are more notable for the diseases they carry. Missouri is one of the most tick-ridden states in the country, but ticks typically prefer areas of tall grasses and thick underbrush. If you go hiking, hunting, or have wooded areas in your yard, then your dog is more likely to come into contact with ticks.
Adult ticks are usually noticeable on the skin of your dog, but it can be harder to find in longhaired animals. With ticks having multiple stages to their lifecycle, we may only recognize large adult ticks, while the smaller immature stages can be extremely hard to see.
Luckily, cats are usually effective at grooming ticks off themselves quickly, so they are less prone to tick related issues. An important thing to know is that it takes a full feeding cycle (about 24 hours) for ticks to transmit disease. So although preventative medications are not designed to prevent a tick from biting, they will kill the tick before it has a chance to transmit any diseases.
Ticks and Fleas Carry Disease
Fleas and ticks themselves are not the only problem. Fleas, for instance, carry other parasites and diseases, such as tapeworms. This is so common that we often recommend treating tapeworms at the same time as flea infestation treatment. Fleas can also carry murine typhus, cat scratch fever (yes, this is a real disease!), Mycoplasma haemofelis (a parasite that attacks red blood cells), and even the plague.
Many people are aware of the diseases ticks can carry, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis. Another important note is that these diseases and parasites can also affect people! Preventing infestation makes our pets happier and keeps everyone in the house healthier.
Tick and Flea Treatment for Dogs and Cats
There are lots of medications available to help prevent and effectively treat a variety of flea and tick problems. Typically prevention is the easiest and cheapest way to deal with the issue.
Preventative medications include….
- Collars are unfortunately not very reliable and are especially prone to user error which can further decrease efficacy, so we rarely recommend them.
- Shampoos are also not a recommended and are really only effective as part of a treatment plan when combined with other treatments.
- Topical medications, such as Frontline Gold® or Revolution®, are often a good choice with cats.
- Oral preventatives, such as Nexgard®, are the best available for dogs.
Our St. Louis veterinarians can help you choose the best preventative products for your pets since the choice is often complicated and depends on many factors. These factors include how many cats and/or dogs you have, their lifestyle, health concerns, other current medications, etc.
When trying to treat a current flea or tick problem during a wellness exam, our veterinarians can:
- Help examine your pet to see if they need specific treatment for their skin.
- Determine if testing or treating for associated diseases and parasites is necessary.
- Develop a plan to rid your pet and home of fleas.
We often see pets after months of ineffective at-home treatments that do not address all facets of the problem. Please call us if you have any questions about flea and tick issues or to begin treatment at our top-rated veterinary clinic. Contact us now!