In Cyprus, you can find fleas and ticks on your dog or cat almost all year long. So you need to provide constant flea and tick protection for them. But what are fleas and ticks? How are pet parents supposed to know if they’re seeing ticks or fleas on dogs or cats? What are the main differences between flea vs. tick bites? And what problems can they cause to our little friends?
Fleas are tiny insects that feed on blood. Female fleas consume about 15 times their body weight each day. Fleas excrete partially digested blood, or flea dirt, which then serves as food for developing flea larvae. They have a life cycle, that takes 14 to 21 days to be complete, with four stages:
- Adult fleas: They live on animals, so they can infest your pet, where they lay eggs.
- Egg: After they are laid on your dog or cat, eggs can be spread all around your house or yard when your infected animal scratches or lies down. These eggs hatch into larvae, usually on your carpets, sofa or bed.
- Larva and pupa: They form cocoons, where they hatch and become adults that infest your pet.
The problem starts with a few adult fleas jumping on to your pet, at the park, on a kennel/cattery or even in your own garden. From here the lifecycle of the flea begins and they can breed at an enormous rate. Actually, it could take only one flea to produce thousands of more fleas.
Dog and cat flea symptoms
Sometimes you can see fleas jumping off your pet’s body or moving on your pet. You can even see spots like grains of pepper scattered on your pet’s skin surface (fleas feces), but most of the times you will not be able to understand if your pet has fleas or not.
What you may see are common symptoms that are caused by flea infestation, such as:
- Excessive scratching/itching
- Licking or chewing more than normal in certain areas of your pet’s body
- Shaking the head often
- Scratching the ears
- Red spots on the skin
Ticks attach to your dog or cat by inserting their mouthparts into your pet’s skin. Usually, they attach themselves where your dog or cat find it hard to lick. They are most commonly seen around the face, neck, ears, feet, and legs of your dog and less often of your cat. However, they can attach anywhere on your pet’s body.
After attaching to your pet, ticks begin feeding on its blood. They gorge on blood for several days and then drop off. The places where ticks attach can become red and irritated. Large numbers of ticks can cause your dog or cat to become anemic if your animal remains infested for a long time.
However, apart from the problems that ticks cause on their own, the same time they can carry a variety of infectious organisms and when they bite your pet, but also you, can make you seriously sick. It takes only one infected tick, in only some hours after infestation, to transmit to your pet or you diseases like ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, etc.
So from a health and hygiene perspective, treating fleas and ticks regularly with a suitable broad-spectrum treatment is the only way to ensure that your pet remains flea and tick free and both you and your animal do not have health problems caused by these nasty creatures.
In rare cases, your pet can develop more serious symptoms
If your pet shows any of the above signs, you should take your pet to a vet as soon as possible:
- Pale pink or even whitish gums, fatigue, especially after exercise and play, which are all signs of anemia (especially in a severe infestation, or in elderly or very young animals that are at greater risk to lose much blood)
- Painful dermatitis, caused by an allergic reaction to flea saliva, called Flea Allergy Dermatitis. If your dog or cat has flea bite hypersensitivity, it can develop a skin reaction, usually around the tail area in dogs or anywhere in cats, where you can see swelling. Even the biting of a single flea can cause the beginning of your pet’s allergic reaction, which will lead your pet to pruritus or “itching”. As a result your pet can damage its skin by constantly scratching, chewing or licking. This damage can lead to hair loss and probably to secondary infection.