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Fleas, Mites, and Ticks
Parasites are common among pets, especially dogs and cats that are allowed to roam outdoors. However, even indoor-only pets can be exposed to parasites every day. Various parasites can be native to a location, affecting pets throughout diverse times of the year. In our area of Texas, many parasites are very common, and we want to help you keep your pets and your family protected.
The most common flea is the Ctenocephalides felis, more commonly known as the cat flea, though there are various other types. This particular type of flea is capable of hosting on humans, cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice, guinea pigs, ferrets, and birds. These fleas rapidly reproduce and are capable of quickly infesting an entire household with both humans and pets as their hosts. If one pet has fleas, all pets within the household must be treated.
Fleas survive by ingesting the blood of their hosts. When they bite the host’s flesh, their saliva irritates the skin, causing the host to itch which in turn, may cause an allergic reaction. To determine if your pet has fleas, comb a section of hair on their back, towards a white piece of paper. If black flecks, resembling dirt, fall onto the paper, gently drop a very small amount of water onto the paper. If the black flecks begin to turn a rust-colored red, your pet has fleas. The rust hue is resultant of the blood being sucked out of your pet. If nothing comes off of your pet when brushed, or if the black flecks remain black, your pet is healthy.
Household inhabitants with fleas may experience:
• Mild to severe scratching.
• Open sores.
• Pet owners experiencing flea bites.
• “Hot spots” or other raw areas of skin, especially on your pet’s back and the rump where the tail connects to their body.
Treatment for fleas
If one pet in the household has fleas, all household inhabitants should be treated. Also remember that for every adult flea you see on your pet, there can potentially be thousands of juvenile fleas and flea eggs in their environment. Juvenile fleas tend to live wherever your pet spends most of his time: beds, couches, and carpeting are great hiding places for juvenile fleas. This is why it is so important to keep every pet in your house on some sort of flea preventative. There are several topical and oral options that our doctors and staff can go over with you to help you choose the safest and most effective preventative for your pet’s individual needs.
Flea shampoos and dips will kill only the fleas that are on your pet at a given time, and will not take care of any adult or juvenile fleas in their environment. Shampoos also do not prevent more fleas from jumping onto your pet once the bath is over. This is why we recommend a topical or oral flea preventative product, as they are much more effective at treating and protecting your pet from flea problems.
There are a lot of products on the market these days, with a wide variation in quality. If you would like recommendations when choosing a flea preventative, contact our veterinary office, and we would be happy to assist you in selecting a superior flea preventative for your pet.
There are many types of mites that your pet may be susceptible to, some of which are contagious to other pets and even people. Young animals are particularly susceptible to mite infestation due to their immature immune systems, however adults can be affected as well. The ear mite is the most common type of mite among cats and dogs and is highly contagious between pets. Other types of mites can cause skin disease and mange, such as demodex or scabies. Most mites are barely visible with the naked eye, but can be seen and identified by our veterinarians using a microscope. Different species of mites are treated differently, so it is important that our veterinarians evaluate your pet to determine the proper medication or treatment protocol.
Symptoms that a pet has mites:
• Crusty rash around ears.
• Dark, waxy or crusty ear discharge.
• Hair loss from excessive scratching.
• Head shaking.
• Patches of scaliness.
Treatment for mites
After the veterinarian has determined the type of mite bothering your pet through a microscope evaluation, they will determine the best form of treatment. Some mites can be treated with topical medications or oral medication; others are best handled with a medicated bath or dip. Susceptibility to certain types of mites, particularly demodex (the cause of demodectic mange), are associated with a genetic predisposition that is passed from parent to offspring, so affected animals should not be bred.
There is no question that pets are curious beings, often wandering into every shrub or bush they can squeeze through. In certain geographical areas, this roaming can cause a pet to acquire ticks. Ticks attach themselves to a pet’s neck, ears, or skin folds and can sometimes be difficult to find even once they have attached to your pet. Tick bites can cause irritation at the bite location and can even spread deadly diseases. If you live in an area prone to tick infestation, be sure to periodically examine your pet after walks or after they have roamed for long periods outside.
Our staff and veterinarians can help you to choose an appropriate tick preventative medication (there are numerous oral and topical prescriptions available) depending on your pet’s particular needs.
What do I do if my pet has a tick?
Promptly removing a tick upon discovering one is the easiest way to prevent disease transmission. To remove a tick, carefully grip the tick with tweezers as close to the pet’s skin as possible. Firmly pull the tick away from the skin while holding the tweezers tightly closed. After removing the tick, crush it, but avoid contact with the innards, as they could be carrying disease. If you do not pull the tick off just right, the head can remain attached and will continue to infect your pet, so it is critical that you remove the tick in its entirety.
If you are unfamiliar with tick removal or feel unconfident removing your pet’s tick on your own, contact the veterinarian, and they can remove the tick for you, ensuring that no tick parts are left behind.