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Preventing Ectoparasites

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Ticks are already making their appearance this spring and fleas can become an issue as the weather continues to warm up. Keeping your pet and your family safe from fleas and ticks is important and fortunately relatively easy to do. It’s important to understand these parasites, their life cycle, and how to effectively treat and prevent infestations.

Fleas are tiny insects. They begin their life cycle as an egg and go through stages as a larva, pupa, and finally an adult. This complete process can be as short as a month during warm weather but can be longer if there is a dormant period in between. The adult female flea requires a blood meal before she starts laying eggs. One adult female flea living on your pet can produce as many as 20,000 new adult fleas in as little as 2 months.

Your pet provides the perfect home for an adult flea. Infestations are very common since fleas are not particular about their host and will switch from pet to pet or wild animal to pet readily. How will you know if your pet has fleas? Often the first clue is when you actually see a flea. For every flea you can see, hundreds more in the form of larva, pupa, and eggs are likely in the carpet, bedding, and furniture. Other signs are excessive itching or scratching from the flea bites. Some pets are allergic to fleas. If they are allergic to fleas even a few bites can cause serious skin problems.

Ticks are members of the spider family. Their lifecycle starts with hatching from an egg and going through stages from larva to nymph and finally becoming an adult tick. Ticks feed on blood. They attach to a host, usually by climbing onto them or hitching on when the host brushes past tall grass or plants. Once attached, the tick will stay on the host for a few hours to several days, before detaching and falling off. Spotting ticks on your pet can be challenging. The nymphs are tiny, about the size of a poppy seed, and easily hide under fur. Adult ticks are larger but can hide under fur or in places you might not notice such as under the tail or collar or in the armpits. Sometimes the first sign that your pet has been exposed to ticks, is your pet’s reaction to the tick bite or symptoms of a tick-borne disease like Lyme disease. While ticks are less active during certain times of the year, any day that the temperature goes above freezing is a day that ticks may become active again.

Fleas and ticks carry a number of diseases, some of which are also dangerous for you or your family. Fleas can cause allergic reactions that can lead to serious skin issues and bacterial infections, anemia from loss of blood especially in young pets, and cat fleas can cause Cat Scratch Disease or CID in people. Ticks also carry many diseases. One of the most common is Lyme disease, which is less common in cats, but becoming very common in dogs and people. Lyme disease can be a devastating disease for pets and their families, causing joint damage, heart and kidney disease, and even neurological issues.

The key is prevention. There are many flea and tick prevention programs available from your veterinarian, who can explain the various preventatives and suggest the best one for you and your pet. Depending on the lifestyle of you and your pet, we have multiple safe and effective options to protect your pet. We do recommend year-round protection against fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites, and heartworms for your pets and your family. Let’s not let anyone in your family become their next me

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