There might be snow on the ground across most of the country, but days will soon be getting longer and the temperature will rise as we near closer to spring. This means both humans and our furry companions will be spending more time outside, attracting pesky fleas and ticks! Prevention is the best defense against these parasites for cats and dogs, but it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of fleas and ticks so you can quickly help pets if necessary.
Fleas are the most common external parasite to plague companion animals. They can live for as few as 13 days or as long as 12 months—and during that time, can produce millions of offspring. Keep an eye out for the following symptoms of fleas on cats and dogs:
- Droppings of “flea dirt” in their fur
- Flea eggs (tiny, white grains)
- Hair loss
- Itchy, irritated skin
- Pale gums
Although they may not be noticed by the hosts they are feeding on, ticks can transmit diseases to the unlucky animal. Fortunately, most ticks are noticeable by humans to the naked eye. They are about the size of a pinhead before they bite, and usually not noticed until they swell with blood. While they rarely cause discomfort, it is best to regularly check pets if you reside in an area where ticks are prevalent, especially if they spend a lot of time outside. If you do find a tick on your pet, it is important to practice safe, careful removal:
- Prepare: Put on latex or rubber gloves so you don’t come into contact with the tick or the bite area
- Remove: Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, pull up with straight, even pressure. Do not twist the tick—this could leave the mouth embedded in your pet.
- Disinfect and Monitor: Disinfect the bite area, wash hands with soap and water, and sterilize tweezers with alcohol or by carefully running over a flame. Monitor the bite area over the next few weeks for infection.