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A pet play date with parasites is never a good time. As warm weather brings out fleas and ticks, these pesky little blood-suckers become eager to latch onto dogs and cats. Obviously pets that spend a great deal of time outdoors—especially near grass and vegetation—are the most susceptible to flea and tick infestations, but even indoor pets can pick up these pests. A few determined parasites might already exist in your home; a flea or tick could’ve hatched on another pet or human to gain access. However it happens, though, remember one thing: keep fleas and ticks away from your pets. Here are some important tips and things you should know.
What is the Life Cycle of Fleas and Ticks?
To beat fleas and tick infestations, a pet owner must treat the pet, its environment, and its surroundings. It is also important to know a little about the biology of these pesky little creatures. Fleas goes through four stages: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. (Ticks follow very much the same pattern—egg, larva—but the stage it enters before becoming an adult is called a nymph.)
Both flea and tick cycle start with adults that uses blood to feed and lays thousands of eggs. Flea larva will mature wherever they can find shelter. This includes in your house: in carpet fibers, furniture crevices, floor cracks, under rugs, etc. Tick larva, however, look for a host and a blood meal on which to survive. Flea larva ready to move onto the next stage will spin a cocoon (pupae) and stay dormant until they emerge as adults to start the cycle all over.
Once nourished on enough blood, tick larva drop to the ground and molt (nymph phase) until they have reached adulthood. This process also happens outside, but ticks can also survive for up to two years in this state.
When conditions (temperature, humidity, and even pressure from walking or vacuuming in a room) are favorable, the pupa and nymphs will emerge as adult fleas and ticks. Using a technique called questing, ticks will adhere to tall grass and other such perches and will hop on your dog or cat when they pass by.
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How to Get Rid Fleas and Ticks
If your cat or dog is carrying fleas or ticks, they will itch and bite their skin and fur aggressively. Flea and tick bites—and the accompanying itching—can lead to scabs, hair loss, and skin infection. Severe cases in young animals can lead to anemia and even death. Fleas also carry a double bonus because they can infect host cats and dogs with tapeworms, another reason to keep them away from pets. Ticks carry diseases, too.
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Fortunately, fleas and ticks can be controlled and eradicated with some simple solutions. Make sure you consult with your veterinarian and find out the options you have for treatment. Most importantly, make sure your preventatives and treatments are safe for your dog and cat. Cats will not tolerate certain treatments that can be used on the canine population. Avoid anything not formulated for cats. Do not use any preventatives or treatments with permethrin or amitraz for feline flea control.
Infographic: The Lifecycle of Fleas >>
Here are some good options for treatment and prevention:
Help your pets enjoy all the fun and games warm weather has to offer, but make sure fleas and ticks are not their playmates. Pay attention to who wants to hang out with your furry children and cancel pet parasite play dates forever.
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