Preventing fleas and ticks is every pet owner’s responsibility. Here are some tips on how to keep dogs and cats healthy, comfortable and pest-free.
Fleas. The tiny flea, spanning only about one-eighth of an inch, can be a big problem for dogs, cats and pet owners. Your pets can contract fleas from other animals or pick them up from outside. Reddish-brown to black in color and without any wings, fleas can jump about 4 feet.
Ticks. Ticks are arachnids and, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, one of the “most efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time when feeding.”
Fleas and ticks crawl, bite and feed on blood and can cause several different diseases in both cats and dogs. Some of these diseases can be transmitted to humans.
Anemia. When parasites feed off a host body’s blood, anemia can occur. Symptoms can include loss of appetite, loss of gum color and lethargy. Dogs and cats can suffer from anemia.
Cat scratch fever. Cat scratch fever is a bacterial disease transmitted from cats to humans, usually children. Cats do not show any signs of the illness but pass it to humans through bites or scratches. People can suffer from swollen lymph nodes, fever, tiredness and loss of appetite.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Animals and humans can contract this bacterial disease carried by ticks. Pet owners removing a crushed tick from a pet can contract the disease through a skin puncture. Symptoms for both pet and human include fever, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite.
Tapeworms. Dogs and cats can become infected with tapeworms after eating fleas. Many times tapeworms go undetected, but your pet may display symptoms like an unsettled stomach, loss of appetite and diarrhea. Tapeworm segments may be be visible in the pet’s stool.
Tularemia. Tularemia is a bacterial disease cats can contract from tick bites. Pet owners can contract it as well through skin contact with infected cats. Its symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting. Simple hand washing can keep pet owners from becoming infected.
Flea and tick infestations are treatable through a variety of methods, including topical solutions, medications and preventive measures. Wash your pet’s bedding and vacuum daily to remove eggs and larvae from the home. Steam clean carpeting as well. When possible, keep pets indoors and away from other infected animals. Always consult your veterinarian before beginning any treatment on your pet.