Prevention and Control of Tick and Flea Infestation in Pets

Ticks and fleas are the most common ectoparasites that affect pets. They are blood sucking parasites and because they can pose significant health risks to our loving pets, it is important to take some preventive measures all year, especially for people living in humid climatic conditions. 

During summers and monsoons, they are more active, and their population is at peak in late summers, when the temperature is milder and humidity increases. It provides favorable conditions for their survival and their reproduction rate increases. 

Ticks are small eight-legged arachnids varies in size; their size increases as they suck blood. 

Fleas are tiny, wingless insects, very fast moving and can also jump high. They are brown colored, appears as dark specks of dirt on pet’s skin. 

How pets get fleas and ticks? 

Pets get fleas from the infested environment like kennels, grooming centers, garden, yards, from other animals – stray dogs and stray cats and flea infested pets. Female flea deposit eggs in the hair coat of animal, in surroundings and then they develop into new fleas and infest other pets.  

Ticks infest pets when they are out in the open. Garden, yards, bushes are the breeding sites for ticks where they undergo questing and when animals walk through the grasses or shrubs, ticks dislodge and get attached to them. 

People’s clothing and visiting pets can also be a source of ticks and fleas. 

Signs and Symptoms  

The most common sign of flea infestation is skin irritation, at the time of feeding flea injects saliva into the skin and the salivary proteins are allergenic to pets which leads to nibbling, scratching and even biting the skin, particularly on the back and around the base of the tail. The condition known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). Excessive scratching may lead to hair loss, leave skin red, inflamed and prone to other skin infections. 

In cats overgrooming can be seen along with small round bumps in the skin called Feline Miliary Dermatitis, it looks like tiny millet seeds.  

Tick causes bruises and wheals at the site of bite. Toxins secreted by these ticks can cause Tick paralysis in pets. 

In case of severe flea and tick infestation pet becomes anemic, especially puppies and kittens due to loss of blood. Ticks transmit several diseases to pets particularly in dogs popularly known as Tick fever includes Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Lyme disease etc.  

Dog suffering from tick fever will show a wide range of symptoms like fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, fatigue, joint pain and sometimes diarrhea. 

Treatment and Control

Ticks and fleas are persistent in environment once they get on your pet, they remain there until they are killed by insecticide or dies itself. 

The first step towards treating and controlling the infestation is to look for ticks and fleas on your pet. 

Checking and Removal 

WHERE TO CHECK YOUR PET FOR TICKS
WHERE TO CHECK YOUR PET FOR TICKS

Regular checking must be done. Run your fingers throughout the body and look for ticks particularly on head, behind the ears. Pubic areas, areas along the neck and tail, in between toes and nasal passages, are some favored sites of feeding of ticks. If you feel any bump, pull the hair apart and remove the whole tick carefully by using tweezers without twisting and jerking and flush them. 

Fleas are just 1-2 mm long and fast moving so it’s not always easy to spot them. Look for dark pepper like flea dirt on pet’s skin especially on back. 

Examination of pet’s bedding for eggs, larvae and excreta is also helpful. 

Treatment 

Today various anti tick and flea products are available in market, comprising-:  Oral tablets, injectables, sprays, dips, spot-on solutions, powders for puppies and cats. 

Shampoos against ticks and fleas are also effective and safe to use regularly.  

 Topical liquid solutions have instant effect but should be diluted and used cautiously as per veterinarian’s instructions. Overdosing of these liquids can be toxic to pets. 

Anti-tick and flea collars are useful for longer duration, provide protection for around 6 months. 

Fine toothed flea combs can be used regularly to catch and remove fleas. 

Care should be taken while using these products on cats because some chemicals(pyrethroids) are toxic to cats. Use those products which are safe and recommended for cats and consult with your vet. 

Environmental Control 

Eliminating ticks and fleas from pets alone cannot solve the problem completely. A successful control program must include treatment of pet’s environment as well.  

Thorough cleaning of house, yard along with vacuuming the carpets, areas beneath furniture is required. The places where pet spends most of its time have the large number of ticks, fleas and eggs deposited there.  

Wash pet’s bedding, blankets and all this should be followed by appropriate insecticide treatment. Treatment of large areas is not recommended. It’s not good for environment and the cost is also high. Let it dry for some time before allowing pets and children there.         

Prevention is better than cure                                                          

This is absolutely true in this case, these stubborn ectoparasites not only make living unpleasant and uncomfortable for pets but also transmit fatal tick-borne illnesses. Below are some preventive measures every pet parent should follow this season to keep these freeloaders at bay. 

. Keeping your pets away from tick prone areas, is the best way to prevent your pets from infestation. 

. Try to keep your home as dry as possible. 

. Examine your pet and its environment regularly and remove the tick immediately to prevent the transmission of pathogens. 

. Take required preventive measures before the tick and flea peak season starts.  

 . Some spot-on products are available with vets. They are safe and easy to use and applied once in a month.  Just pour the entire content of tube on the skin spot at the nape of the neck. In larger dogs use several spots along the back. Do not bath your pet at least for 15 days after applying this. 

. Brush your pet regularly at least once in a day, it will help in removing ticks and fleas and improve pet’s skin health. 

. Pay close attention to the behavior of your pet and look out for the signs and symptoms. If you are not able to control the infestation even after using required products, consult the vet. 


-Dr. Swati Rawat
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