Fleas and ticks in spring
What are fleas and ticks exactly?
Fleas are basically tiny bloodsucking parasites. They can be two to three millimeters long and are brown or black in colour. Fleas have extremely strong legs that enable them to jump great distances which is useful for jumping on a suitable host. The only suitable hosts for dog- and catfleas (Ctenocephalides spp.) are animals. They do sometimes bite people, but immediately afterwards realise that it is not a suitable host and will quickly jump to a new target.
Ticks also fall in the category of bloodsucking parasites. But, they look a little different than fleas do and cannot jump. Unlike fleas, they do settle for people as hosts. Ticks can stay attached to their host up to a few weeks. It is very important to prevent ticks from attaching to the skin of the animal. A short period after attaching ticks can transmit, as carriers of parasites, diseases such as Babesiosis and Lyme disease and other infections. Also in humans ticks can transmit a variety of nasty diseases. Ticks that are already present on the dog can best directly be removed with a tick hook.
How can your pet get fleas or ticks?
Young fleas go looking for a host as soon as they have hatched. By noticing vibrations and body heat, they know when a potential host is approaching. As soon the potential host is in range, the flea will jump on them and hide in the animal’s fur, where it will bite and feed on blood. After it has consumed blood, it will lay eggs. These eggs will eventually fall out of the fur and end up in the surroundings of the host, for example in the animals basket. When the eggs are inside, it’s very easy for them to spread all over the house. The eggs will first hatch a larva. This larva eventually transforms into a cocoon which will then turn into a new flea. The hatching of these cocoons is stimulated by vibrations. So if you or your pet is walking next to a bunch of cocoons, they can quickly hatch and the newborn fleas can jump on your animal almost immediately. This is why you can have a sudden a flea infestation after your holiday, the house was empty for a while, the cocoons know it and are just waiting for you to come home.
Ticks cannot jump like fleas can. Therefore, they have a different tactic to find a host. They will hide in tall grass or shrubbery, drop themselves onto the target and attach to it. They can stay attached for up to several weeks, sucking up blood from the host. After they’ve sucked up enough blood they will let go and lay eggs in the vicinity.
Treatment and prevention fleas
Contrary to popular belief, only 5% of fleas actually lives on the host. The other 95% lives in the surroundings of the host like its basket or the carpet. In our blog Fleas in winter we will tell you how to prevent fleas on your animal, how you can check your animal for fleas and how to get rid of an infestation.
It is important to treat all animals in the house against fleas. In case of a flea infestation, or the existing risk of a flea infestation, it is also necessary to treat the infected environment, so that you kill all adult fleas and larvae in the house. Indoor-X Spray is a suitable product for this.
Fleas are intermediate hosts of the dog tapeworm Dipylidium Caninum. This tapeworm can be transmitted by swallowing a flea by dogs and cats. This is one of the reasons why veterinarians advise regularly deworming your pets. It is wise to deworm all adult cats up to 4 times a year and all adult dogs up to 4 times a year or sometimes even more, depending on the risk of infection.
Also see our blog post 'Read all the ins & outs about worm control in dogs and cats'
Treatment and prevention ticks
There are various means to prevent ticks on your animal. There are spot-on pipettes such as Advantix, Advantage and Pulvex that offer several weeks of protection against the parasites. There are also special collars from brands like Seresto and Scalibor that will protect your animals for multiple months.
In the warmer months it’s important to check your animal for ticks regularly. Especially if your pet is not protected with a spot-on agent or repelling collar. If you check your animal for ticks immediately after a walk, you can still remove the tick before it has attached itself.
When you find an attached tick on your animal, it’s important to remove it as soon as possible. You can choose to have it removed by a veterinarian or to do it yourself using a Tick Hook.