A common parasite, fleas are found in almost every area of the world and can be found on dogs, cats, and many other mammals. They survive year to year even in cold climates because they live on pets, in buildings, and on wild animals.
Fleas, Ticks & Mites
There are four stages to the flea life cycle. Eggs are laid by an adult female flea which is on a host. The eggs roll off into the environment and after a few days they mature into larvae. Larvae survive by eating eat flea feces, flea egg shells, organic debris, and other flea larvae. They can crawl and move as far as six inches per day. After a few days, and once conditions are conducive, larvae mature into pupae. Pupae have very thick shells and are very resistant to environmental conditions. After a few days, and once the pupae detect a host is present, they mature into adult fleas that hop on another host.
There are many types of flea treatments. Unfortunately, there is no one drug or chemical that can kill all four stages of the flea. There are several types of good products to kill adult fleas: Frontline, Advantage, Comfortis, Capstar, and Revolution. Older products of various formulations of synthetic pyrethrins are also available, some of which are highly toxic to cats. Lufenuron and methoprene are chemicals that work on immature stages of the flea, although there is no chemical that will kill the pupal stage.
Fleas are the number one allergen of dogs and cats and can cause severe skin disease and itching. Another reason fleas should be treated is due to the fact that they can carry and spread several serious diseases, such as tapeworms, Cat scratch disease (Bartonella), murine typhus, and the bubonic plague.
Your veterinarian can help you with a flea control program depending on what kind of pets you have and the level of flea infestation. Control may involve treating the environment as well as the pets. Contact your veterinarian today for more information about the treatment options available for your pet!
Ticks are the small wingless external parasites, living by hematophagy on the blood of mammals, birds, and occasionally reptiles and amphibians. Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that are often found in freshly mown grass, where they will rest themselves at the tip of a blade so as to attach themselves to a passing animal. It is a common misconception that the tick can jump from the plant onto the host. Physical contact is the only method of transportation for ticks. They will generally drop off the animal when full, but this may take several days. Ticks have a harpoon-like structure in their mouth area, known as a hypostome, that allows them to anchor themselves firmly in place while sucking blood. This mechanism is normally so strong that removal of a lodged tick requires two actions: One to remove the tick, and one to remove the remaining head section of the tick.
Ticks are important vectors of a number of diseases. Ticks are second only to mosquitoes as vectors of human disease, both infectious and toxic. Hard ticks can transmit human diseases such as relapsing fever, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, equine encephalitis, Colorado tick fever, and several forms of ehrlichiosis. Additionally, they are responsible for transmitting livestock and pet diseases, including babesiosis, anaplasmosis and cytauxzoonosis.
There are many types of mites that infect dogs, cats, and other animals. Mites are microscopic arthropod parasites that, for the most part, infect the skin or mucous membranes. Mites can even be present on birds and reptiles. The most common mites that infect dogs and cats are ear mites, Demodex, scabies, and Cheyletiella.
Ear mites are very common on cats and are occasionally seen on dogs. They live primarily in the ear canals and can cause severe irritation. They are easily transmitted between pets, so if they are found in one pet, all pets in contact should be treated. A different species of ear mite can infect rabbits.
Demodex is a mite that all dogs are exposed to, but only a small percentage of dogs develop skin problems. In young puppies, it usually causes small areas of hair loss especially on the head and front legs. Adult dogs tend to show more generalized symptoms, and usually have more red, itchy skin lesions. Adult dogs that develop Demodex usually have another disease such as hypothyroidism, Cushings, or cancer that suppresses the immune system and allows the Demodex to increase in numbers and cause lesions. It is now recognized that cats have their own species of Demodex, but the disease is much more rare in cats.
Scabies is a skin disease in dogs or people caused by the mite Sarcoptes. Most dogs with this disease are intensely itchy. Scabies is highly contagious, but not all dogs in contact are as itchy. People also have their own species of Sarcoptes; most of their cases are due to the human scabies mite, but it is possible for people to develop lesions from the dog scabies mite.
Cheyletiella species of mites can be seen in rabbits and dogs. It is especially seen in puppies as large flakes of scale and is sometimes called “walking dandruff”. There is no one treatment that will kill all the types of mites discussed here. Your veterinarian can advise you on the various treatments for each problem.