Ever noticed your pet scratching or biting excessively at her skin? Shaking her head more often? Rubbing against furniture? She could have an external parasite problem.
Just like a human, if a pet has the creepy crawly sensation of a bug moving around on her skin, she’ll go to great lengths to remove it. And, if it happens to be a blood-sucking external parasite, like a flea or a tick, her blood could be that parasite’s next meal, which puts her at risk of contracting numerous diseases that these bugs can transmit.
Fleas: What you need to know
If you see a flea on your pet or in your home, you can be certain that there are many more lurking where you can’t see them. Fleas go through four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The flea you see on your pet is an adult, and adult fleas make up only 5 percent of the total flea population in an environment.
An adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day, which look like small, white grains of sand. She’ll lay them on your pet after feeding, and then they will fall off onto your furniture or into your carpet when your pet shakes or lays down.
Up to two weeks later, the flea eggs will hatch, producing flea larvae. Flea larvae are transparent and blind, avoiding light by staying deep within your pet’s fur and feeding on the pre-digested blood that adult fleas pass (also known as “flea dirt”). In ideal conditions, a flea larva will spin a cocoon about 5-20 days after hatching from its egg.
A flea pupa’s cocoon can protect it for anywhere from several days to years until conditions are ideal and a host is detected nearby. The cocoon has a sticky outer coating that keeps the developing flea safe inside.
Once emerging from its cocoon, an adult flea will feed on a blood meal within a few hours and will begin laying eggs a few days after that. An adult flea can live on a host animal for up to several months.
Fleas in various life stages can be in your home and on your pets regardless of the time of year. In addition to general discomfort and itchy skin, fleas can spread diseases, including:
- Cat Scratch Disease
- Mycoplasma haemofelis
- Murine typhus
Many pets are also allergic to flea bites and can develop flea allergy dermatitis, which can cause extremely irritated, red, and itchy skin, hair loss, and open wounds.
Don’t let fleas wreak havoc on your pet. Be sure your pet is on a regular year-round flea preventative that kills fleas in all stages of life. Contact our office at 512-696-3980 to discuss the flea preventative that would be best for your dog or cat.
Ticks: What you need to know
Similar to fleas, ticks go through four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Unlike fleas, ticks are capable of biting and spreading disease in three of their four life stages.
When a tick egg hatches into a tick larva, it is about the size of a grain of sand and has six legs. Once a tick larva has a blood meal, it will molt (shed its skin) and become a tick nymph.
Tick nymphs are about the size of a sesame seed with eight legs. Like tick larvae, tick nymphs will feed and then molt into adults.
Depending on the tick species (there are about 90 known tick species in the U.S.), adult ticks are flat and oval, about the size of an apple seed, before feeding. Once an adult tick feeds on your pet’s blood, it will become larger and engorged. Adult ticks can bury their heads underneath the surface of the skin while feeding, so they might appear to be headless.
Ticks are often found in shady areas with tall grasses and weeds. They climb up the tall grasses, waiting for a suitable host to pass by.
Ticks can spread a number of dangerous diseases, including:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Tick paralysis
While some tick-borne diseases can be deadly, there are ways to keep your pet safe:
- Keep the shrubs and grasses in your yard cut back, control weeds, and pick up leaf debris to reduce tick habitat.
- Check your pet regularly for ticks. If you spot one, call our office
- Talk with us about the tick preventative medication that would be best for your pet.
Ready to keep theses blood-sucking external parasites away from your pet and your home? Call our office at 512-696-3980 to get help.
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