First of all, a flea is an insect. It doesn’t have wings but has six legs and can jump far. Adult fleas can live for more than 100 days. Once they find a host, they will live there until they die. Only the adult fleas feed on the host. Soon after feeding, the flea can lay 20 to 40 eggs per day for several weeks. When the host (dog or cat) shakes, they deposit those eggs into their environment.
Ticks are arachnids and are closely related to spiders. Most stages of the tick have eight legs. Ticks can live a few weeks up to three years. Ticks spend most of their lives off of a host as they wait until just the right host comes along. The tick larvae, nymphs and adults feed on a different host for the different stages of their development. The tick can lay thousands of eggs at a time, When the female is engorged, she detaches from the host and lays the eggs wherever she falls off. After that, the tick dies.
In some climates such as the southern and southwestern states, fleas and ticks may be a year round concern. The ideal temperature for fleas is in the 70-85 degree range, but they can also live in cooler and warmer temperatures as well. In many states, the most prevalent flea and tick season are the spring and summer (typically May through September). The non-adult (eggs, larva and pupa) fleas will go dormant in below freezing temperatures but will be looking for a host when the temperatures rise again.
Ticks can survive near freezing temperatures. They are hardier than fleas and much tougher to kill. There are different types of ticks depending on where you live. For example, the West Coast has the brown dog tick, the American dog tick and deer ticks. In the Southern and East Coast areas, there are the American dog tick, brown dog tick and the Lone Star tick.
Fleas can transmit bartonellosis (infectious bacterial disease) and tapeworm. Ticks can transmit many deadly diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
You and your pets should continue to enjoy your time outdoors, whether it be camping, hiking, playing, etc. Just use common sense and take some precautions, such as:
For Humans: apply a tick repellant containing DEET, however, do NOT let your pet ingest it as DEET can be toxic to pets; remove and wash clothing immediately after returning home and use high heat on your dryer; wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and tuck the pant legs into socks; do a body check after returning home and remove any ticks found. Remove ticks by using a fine tipped tweezer. If that is not available, you can shield your fingers with tissue paper, foil covered gum wrapper or a plastic sandwich bag and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do NOT twist the tick as you remove it as this may cause the tick’s mouthparts to remain in the skin increasing risk of infection. Also, do NOT try to suffocate a tick with alcohol soaked cotton as that will cause the tick to regurgitate while its mouthparts are still in the skin and can also increase the risk of infection. Avoid contact with the tick’s body as the fluids may be infectious. Lastly, wash the affected area with soap and water. Disinfect the bite site and your hands with rubbing alcohol, Hibiclens or Betadine.
For our Pets: If possible, limit access to known tick infested areas. Check pets frequently for ticks and at the end of the day’s activities. Look carefully as some tick species are only as large as the head of a pin. You can check by running your fingers slowing over your dog’s entire body, check between the toes, under the armpits, the insides of the ears and around the face and chin. If you feel a bump or swollen are, check to make sure if its a burrowed tick. Carefully and promptly remove any ticks. If possible, wear gloves to avoid contact with your skin. When using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the dog’s skin as possible; try not to pinch the dog’s skin. Pull outward in a straight, steady motion. Make sure the entire tick has been removed as anything left behind can lead to infection. When using a tick remover, gently press the tick remover against the dog’s skin near the tick. Then side the notch of the remover un the tick and continue sliding the remover until the tick has been caught in the small end of the notch and is pulled free. You might want to store the tick in a container with date on it. If your pet shows symptoms of a tick borne illness, your veterinarian can identify and/or test the tick. After removal, clean your dog’s skin with an antiseptic and also clean the tweezers or tick remover with rubbing alcohol. Watch the area to see if an infection occurs. If the skin appears irritated or infected, see your veterinarian.
The best defense is a good offense. Treat your pet year round with a flea and tick control product. See BPaWed Pals, LLC for a variety of flea and tick control products. Consult your veterinarian if you have any questions.
Never ever give cats flea control formulated for dogs. Make sure that your products are age and poundage appropriate … read manufacturer’s instructions. Always consult your veterinarian before using any product on very young pets. Some formulas are not healthy for kittens under four months of age.
Finally, don’t panic. Taking steps to help prevent ticks from embedding themselves and/or quick removal of any ticks will have you and your pets sailing right through the tick season without any problems.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational only. It does not replace a consultation with a veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog or cat.