Your guide of what to expect during tick and flea season
- What to expect during flea and tick season
As the winter snow begins to thaw and temperatures begin to rise, it's time that we turn our attention to the inevitable arrival of tick and flea season. Ticks are tiny but pesky parasites that feed on blood. When they become engorged on a blood meal they are easily felt or seen. They can carry one or more diseases (e.g. Lyme disease) that can be harmful to both humans and pets. Fleas are 6 legged insects that will use any warm-blooded creature as a host, they are not very picky and can multiply very rapidly, quickly making them a nuisance. Read on to find out more about ticks and fleas and how to protect your pets from getting bitten.
Tick hiding spots
The peak time for ticks is early spring through fall when temperatures are warmer. As soon as temperatures rise above 4-5° C, ticks start to become active and seek out unsuspecting prey.
Unfortunately, for those that live in warmer climates, that means ticks can strike all year long. A few of the tick’s favourite hiding spots include areas with tall grass, bushes, leaf litter, and even sandy beaches. Therefore, it is important to check your dog (and yourself) for ticks after each walk and hike that takes you off cement walkways during the warmer months.
Types of ticks
Ticks are usually black or brown in color but turn a shade of greyish white once they’ve been feeding for about 24 hours. The type of tick that your pet will be susceptible to depends on the geographic region in which you live. The most common varieties of ticks in United States are:
- American Dog Tick
- Blacklegged Tick
- Brown Dog Tick
- Gulf Coast Tick
- Lone Star Tick
- Rocky Mountain wood tick
- Western blacklegged tick
Not all ticks carry the same diseases, for example it is primarily the Blacklegged Deer tick that transmits Lyme disease to either people or pets.
Preventive measures for ticks
Thankfully, there are many preventive products on the market that can help keep your pet safe. These include tick collars that protect the head and neck, topical spot treatments, bi-weekly medicated shampoos, and sprays. However, your vet may be most likely to suggest an oral medication (a monthly/tri-monthly chewable treat), as these medications are very effective as a preventive and compliance is easy. If you live in an area that is known for a high concentration of Blacklegged deer ticks, a Lyme disease vaccine may be suggested. To find out which option might be best for your pet, talk to your veterinarian.
You may also want to consider the following preventive measures that can help make your garden less hospitable to ticks:
- Remove fallen leaves regularly from your yard and dispose of debris
- Mow your lawn regularly to keep it relatively short
- Remove tall weeds
- Try to restrict your pet’s play area to keep them away from shrubs and bushes
Please note that these preventive procedures are not a substitute for your pet’s annual checkup and preventive medications from your vet. It’s important to get your pet tested for tick-related illnesses, especially if you live in an area that is highly susceptible to ticks.
Spotting a tick and how to remove it
When it comes to spotting a tick on your pet, it’s not just the furry flanks you need to be worried about. Ticks can be found hiding on your dog’s head, neck, in between toes, inside ears, and on their legs. Since it only takes one bite to transmit an infection, ticks must be removed as soon as they are found, ideally within 24 hours before they become fully engorged.
If your pet is taking preventive medication, then the tick will die before any diseases can be transmitted. Whether you perform the removal yourself or seek help from your vet, the procedure usually involves removing the entire tick including its very small head. Simply yanking the tick away from your dog’s skin will not suffice. The head will be left buried in the skin and the stress on the tick will cause it to inject any disease-carrying saliva into your dog’s body.
There are various removal techniques available, such as this one below from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull straight outward from the skin with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
The tick can be disposed of by flushing it down the toilet or taken to your veterinarian for identification. If you are unsure of what to do, consult your veterinarian for more advice.
Although small, ticks can transmit some nasty diseases and deserve our respect. Due to climate change, areas previously unexposed to ticks of any kind are now permanent host areas. So even though ticks may never have been an issue where you live in previous years, there is a very good possibility that they are now.
Why are fleas a concern?
- These tiny, blood-sucking parasites irritate your dog and cat and infest your home — often before you realize that fleas have moved in.
- Flea infestation can result in flea bite dermatitis (FAD). Flea saliva is antigenic and irritating, which can lead to hypersensitivity and itching.
- In the United States, some fleas carry pathogens that can cause human disease according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Preventive measures for fleas
Similar to ticks there are preventative prescriptions (oral and topical form) throughout the duration of flea and tick season (usually whenever the weather is above 4 degrees Celsius!). To find out which option might be best for your pet, talk to your veterinarian.
Other preventive measures could include:
- Avoiding wooded and high grass areas where ticks usually linger
- Frequently checking your pet for fleas and ticks after a trip outdoors
- Completing an annual heartworm and tick borne disease test in the spring (April-June) for all dogs over 6 months of age to make sure an infection has not been transmitted from the previous season. Consult your veterinarian on whether this option is right for your pet.
You found a flea on your pet
If you found fleas on your dog or cat, there are few options that you can look at. Although it is best to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian so they can help you choose the right one for your pet.
- Treat your pet using a topical or oral parasite product that treats fleas and tapeworms
- Prescription flea medications
- Dog Flea shampoo
Another thing to consider is since fleas and their eggs will be in the environment, you must treat your house as well. Carpets and furniture throughout your home should be vacuumed and blankets/bedding should be washed.
Although there are no preventive measures for people against ticks and fleas and their potentially transmitted diseases, there are excellent measures available for our pets. The first place to start when you have questions is your veterinarian, as they are a great source of what measures are best suited for your dog or cat.
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The information provided and contained herein are the opinions of Pethealth Services (USA) Inc. which are based on external publication. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Pethealth Services (USA) Inc. assumes no responsibility or liability for any loss, claims or damages arising out of the within content.