Fleas and ticks are two of the most common external parasites to attack dogs and cats. Understanding how to spot fleas on dogs, and how these opportunistic pests function and learning how to detect them will help keep your dog or cat flea- and tick-free!
Flea and Tick Basics
Fleas are wingless insects that go through a complete metamorphosis. Eggs hatch into larvae, which molt several times and then spin a cocoon from which they emerge as adult fleas. Fleas are difficult to eliminate because this cocoon stage is resistant to pesticides, temperature, and desiccation. They can remain in this stage for up to a year.
Here are some additional flea facts every pet owner should know:
- A female flea can lay 40 to 50 eggs per day.
- Fleas thrive in temperatures of 65° to 80°F and prefer humidity levels of 75% to 85%.
- Fleas live an average 113 days on the host animal.
- Female fleas can consume 15 times their body weight in blood daily.
Ticks are arthropods that have something in common with fleas: They suck their host animal’s blood. Often found in grassy woodland areas, ticks are common throughout the United States.
Flea and tick bites can irritate even the healthiest pets, and those with sensitive skin may develop agonizing allergic reactions to flea and tick bites. When a dog or cat scratches and licks at one spot too much, the area can become inflamed and infected, resulting in what’s called a “hot spot.” Allergic reactions to flea and tick bites can result in rashes, hair loss, skin infections, and chronic skin irritation.
Ticks can transmit many diseases to your pet through their bites, and a flea infestation can be detrimental to your pet’s health. Here are some of the most common problems that can result from flea and tick bites on dogs and cats:
- Canine ehrlichiosis, contracted from the common brown dog tick, occurs mainly in the Gulf Coast area, the Eastern seaboard, the Midwest, and California. Symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, and decreased appetite.
- Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne illness in the United States (occurring mainly in the Northeast, upper Midwest, northern California, and the Pacific Northwest), results when a tick bites a dog or cat and stays attached for 5 to 20 hours. Symptoms include fever, joint swelling, and lethargy.
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be contracted from several tick species and occurs mainly in the southeastern United States, Midwest, Plains states, and Southwest. Symptoms include fever and muscle pain.
Now that you’re armed with some basic information, it’s time to learn some preventive tips! For information on how to keep fleas and ticks from infesting your pet, see “Fight Fleas and Ticks: 3-Step Protection.”