Fleas and Ticks and Mosquitos (Oh my!)

Our pets love living in the Sunshine State with us, but there’s a few pestsĀ and the diseases they carry that we have to protect our pets from on a monthly basis. Let’s learn a little bit about these pests and then we’ll talk about why we need to take preventative action against them.

Fleas

Possibly the most recognizable “pet pest” out there. They’re tiny, jumpy, and make our pets scratch and itch. Fleas are an insect that lives it’s entire life cycle on its host (in this case our dogs and cats). Fleas can, however, also live for an extended period of time without a host. This can lead to infestations of backyards and homes (especially carpet!).

Why are fleas so pesky? When a flea bites your pet to get a meal, their saliva irritates the bite and surrounding area. While irritating and itchy to begin with, some pets even develop an extreme sensitivity or even allergy to flea saliva causing severe itching, hair loss, and lesions. In addition, fleas can give your pet tapeworms and diseases such as cat scratch disease.

How Can We Prevent Fleas? – The best way to prevent fleas is to keep all of your pets on a topical or oral flea prevention. If your pets already have fleas or you are dealing with an infestation of fleas in your yard, home, and on your pets, we recommend treating your yard and home (you can call local pest control companies that can give you advice on how to best treat these areas) as well as your pets.

Capstar is an effective way of killing adult fleas that are presently on your pet. Available for both dogs and cats in a tablet form it begins working in 30 minutes. If your pet is infested with fleas and you give them a dose of Capstar, it’s highly recommended that you also give them a preventative treatment the next day and continue to follow a preventative schedule so they do not become re-infested.

A severe flea infestation can take a couple months to completely eradicate. Continue to treat your environment (home and yard) until all signs of fleas are gone. It is important to always keep all of your pets on a preventative even if you are not currently seeing fleas – one missed dose can lead right back to another infestation!

But My Pets are Indoor Pets – Because fleas can survive without a host for an extended period of time your pet does not have to go outdoors for them to be at risk. Fleas in your yard can catch a ride inside on your sneakers! And that’s not the only way they can get to your indoor pets – since they are so small even the tiniest gaps in windows and doors can allow fleas inside. Because of this, and because fleas are so common in Florida we recommend that every pet be kept on a flea preventative.

 

Ticks

Ticks are similar to fleas in that they are an insect that feeds off of the blood of their host. Unlike fleas, however, ticks attach themselves to their host by biting and inserting their mouthparts into the skin of their host. Another difference between fleas and ticks is that ticks do not spend their entire life cycle on their host. In fact, depending on the exact kind of tick, they must find two or even three hosts during their life cycle in order to fully mature and reproduce. Because of this, a single tick could have a rabbit, deer, and then your pet as their hosts!

The largest danger ticks pose to our pets (and to us) are the diseases they can transmit. There are multiple diseases that your pet can contract from ticks, including Lyme disease which can infect dogs and cats and humans!

How Can We Prevent Ticks? – Luckily, there are a number of options when it comes to tick prevention. Ticks cannot jump like fleas, nor do they fall from trees as some people might think. Instead they crawl onto their host from grass, bushes, etc. Some tricks to limiting ticks in your yard include maintaining a buffer between any wooded areas and your yard, keeping wild animals out of your yard as much as possible, and keeping your grass mowed. This is not always possible depending on where you live, so if your pet is likely to come into contact with ticks in your yard or on walks or other outings we can help you find the right preventative for you and your pet and there are even a number of preventative products on the market that prevent both fleas and ticks.

Heartworms

Heartworm disease is, unfortunately, a big risk to our pets. Baby heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes (Yes, every mosquito bite is putting your pet at risk!). A mosquito that bites an infected host animal (which can be another pet or wild animal such as a raccoon) can carry baby worms and infect the next animal it bites. Once infected, baby worms make their way to the heart where they mature in about 6 month’s time.

For dogs, a positive result on a heartworm test means a costly and painful heartworm treatment. Some signs of heartworm disease include a mild persistent cough (which sounds almost like the dog is clearing it’s throat) lethargy, decreased appetite, and weight loss. The earlier it’s caught, the more success treatment and recovery is likely to be.

Cats Can get Heartworms Too – While cats are not a typical host for heartworms, they can become infected as well. Even baby heartworms can cause respiratory disease in cats and since the heartworm treatment that is used for dogs cannot be used for cats, prevention is the only way you can protect your cat from heartworm disease.

There are fortunately quite a few available preventives available on the market for your pets and it is both inexpensive and easy to keep your pet protected from heartworm disease.