One of the benefits of living in Central Maine is cold weather kills adult fleas. Unfortunately, they lay eggs, which hatch in the warm, humid conditions of spring. We find the greatest frequency of flea infestations are in the spring.
Infestations occur because flea eggs are slippery and fall off your pet’s fur. They spin into a cocoon in the safety of a carpet or in warm soil. This flea pupae hatch into adults within two weeks or up to six months. They thrive in warm and humid conditions, and the cycle continues as one female flea can produce 50 eggs per day. It is critical we treat not only your pet, but also places where fleas’ pupae can hatch and re-infect your pet.
Signs of Fleas
How do you know your cat or dog has fleas? First, fleas are so small you may not be able to see them. If you suspect fleas look for flea dirt, which is flea feces in your pet’s fur. These dark clumps are dried blood sucked from your pet by the offending fleas. Also, look for an uncomfortable pet with mild redness to severe scratching. Should it be a severe case of fleas you will see skin infections and possible open sores.
- Your cat or dog will be uncomfortable in their own skin. Imagine, if you had unwanted guests taking little bites all day long on your skin.
- Some pets are allergic to flea saliva. They are more likely to respond with severe irritation and scratching. It only takes one or two flea bites for this response.
- Some dogs and cats develop anemia from flea infestation.
- Some fleas carry tapeworm eggs. Your cat or dog will ingest these tapeworm eggs if they use their teeth to scratch the flea bites.
Flea Infestation Treatments
When you bring in your cat or dog we’ll assess the severity of the infestation. The appropriate medication will be prescribed and we’ll talk about how to keep your pet from being re-infected. It all boils down to cleaning your pet’s sleeping area to kill flea eggs, larvae and pupae and using the proper flea medication, either oral or topical, on a continual basis.
- Clean your cat or dog’s sleeping area every week
- Vacuum carpet, floors and furniture
- Inspect your pet for flea “dirt” on a regular basis
- Use an appropriate flea preventative on a continual basis.
Now, let’s move on to ticks!
It's a Tick's Life
We’ll focus on the deer tick because it is the primary carrier of Lyme Disease. Deer ticks have a two year life-cycle. They hatch from their eggs in the August/September period and in the larval stage feed primarily on rodents. The tick contracts the Lyme bacteria from the white footed mice in most cases, not, the white tail deer as is popular belief.
Once the larvae feed in the fall, they lie dormant and the following spring emerge as hungry nymphs. This is the most likely period when the Lyme bacteria is transferred to animals and humans. Later, in early summer these nymphs molt into adults and they too can give you, or your pets, Lyme Disease. Did you know a tick can have up to three hosts before it dies? We are focusing on the Deer Tick and Lyme Disease but we are also concerned about other ticks such as the Brown Dog Tick, and other diseases like Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichia. We can discuss in greater detail on your next visit.
You will be well served to check your cat or dog for ticks when they come into the house. Feel for small bumps in your pet’s fur. Ticks are round with a hard exterior. The ideal is to find ticks before they attach themselves and engorge.
When you find a tick attached to your dog or cat, remove it right away. Use tweezers and grip the tick as close to the pet’s skin as possible. Steadily pull the tick out without twisting or crushing it. You want to be sure all parts of the tick are removed from your pet. Ticks love the areas between the toes, inside the ears, in the armpits, and the neck, so check them carefully.
Pets with Lyme bacteria may not exhibit symptoms for two to five months. Should you notice any lethargy, joint swelling or fever in your cat or dog they may have contracted the Lyme bacteria. In some cases, a change in your dog’s bark is also an indication. Call immediately.
Antibiotics usually do the trick with a follow up care protocol. Should you have other pets it’s a good idea to check them for Lyme bacteria if another pet has been diagnosed. And, of course don’t forget to check all the humans in your house.
- Some, but not all dogs can be vaccinated to prevent Lyme disease. Typically, there is a followup booster 2-4 weeks later and annual boosters thereafter. Unfortunately, there is no preventative vaccine for cats. Please check in with us to be sure we can vaccinate your dog.
- Ticks can be found in tall grassy areas, marshes and wooded areas. Be sure you and your pets avoid these areas.
- Mow your lawn regularly and cut shrubbery near your home.
- There are a number of great tick preventatives – either oral or topical. We are happy to advise you on the proper one for your pet. Make sure that you use tick preventatives correctly.
- And of course, check for ticks when your pets enter the house.
- Keep inside pets inside.
We all know people and pets debilitated because tick bites transferred bacteria to pets and humans. Take the precautions and stay healthy.