Parasite Control and Your Dog: What You Need to Know

Know thy enemy, even those of the tiniest varieties.

When it comes to your canine companion, you are the primary purveyor of his longterm well-being. Your year-round vigilance is necessary to protect your dog from an array of parasitic creatures that threaten his health and comfort, and having the appropriate base knowledge of treatment and prevention options proves paramount.

The warmer weather of spring and summer beckons parasites to your canine, who provides just the furry, warm environment these unwanted hosts need in order to flourish. Tiny critters ranging from fleas and ticks to intestinal parasites serve as a nuisance to your pooch or – in the worst-case scenarios – afflict your canine with a serious condition.

As the famous proverb goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While most parasitic attacks your furry companion encounters are treatable, it behooves you as an owner to take preventative measures to protect your pooch and minimize the threats posed by these canine enemies. Here’s what you need to know about parasite control for your dog.

Flea Infestation in Dogs

The flea is a common problem for dogs as well as their owners. Like all parasites, fleas pose a health-hazard to your pooch and can make him miserable. As if flea bites aren’t bad enough, some dogs are “flea allergic” and develop severe itching because they’re hypersensitive to the antigens in flea saliva.

Fleas are typically seasonal within northern climates and year-round within southern climates. Indicators your dog might be affected include visible signs of fleas, an excessive propensity to itch or chew the skin, evidence of flea “dirt” (black pepper type discharge on the skin), and the presence of skin lesions.

The itching component to a flea allergy can be treated with antihistamines or even steroids prescribed by your veterinarian, but the best approach is to kill the fleas and prevent their return. Preventative strategies include:

  • Minimize roaming in places like parks and fields where exposure and infection are possible.
  • Monitor all pets in your household for evidence of fleas on a regular basis.
  • Utilize topical or ingestible flea control products that prevent development of this parasite.

How to Remove and Prevent Ticks

Ticks are irritating arthropods that prey on dogs. Their goal in life is to find a warm-blooded creature so that they can feed, and canines often prove to be an easy target. Veterinarians and pet owners have been battling these tiny parasites for decades and the battle wages on.

The best recommendation to remove a tick involves using tweezers or a commercially available tick removal device to pull the tick off your dog. Do not touch the tick since diseases can be transmitted. Use a tissue or paper towel to protect your fingers and consider wearing gloves when removing a tick.

Control and prevention of ticks is extremely important in reducing the risk of disease associated with these parasites. As such, you should remove ticks from your canine as soon as possible. Tick avoidance requires staying away from environments that harbor these parasites, meaning extra care should be taken in woodlands and areas with tall grass. When traveling, be aware that certain areas of the country have a much higher incidence of ticks.

Ticks can be eliminated by applying topical tick-killing medications to affected canines. Tick collars or products applied topically may act to prevent attachment of new ticks and to promote detachment of existing ticks. There are many products on the market used to control ticks – consult your veterinarian for suggestions.

Dealing with Ear Mites

If you see your dog shaking his head and scratching his ears excessively, or if there is an abnormal odor emanating from his ears, he may be suffering from ear mites. These highly-contagious, tiny crab-like parasites live in the ear canals of dogs. The presence of mites can cause severe inflammation in your affected canine’s ears.

Your veterinarian will begin treatment by cleaning out your dog’s ears before applying medication. If necessary, your vet can prescribe topical medication for you to apply at home. You can prevent ear mites by drying your pet’s ears after bathing, checking his ears for foreign matter, and promptly visiting your vet at the first sign of trouble.

Intestinal Parasites in Dogs

Intestinal parasites, commonly referred to as “worms” in canines, represent one of the most common conditions seen in puppies and dogs. Most infections are acquired by ingestion of microscopic eggs. This occurs when a dog licks areas where other dogs have defecated. Symptoms of intestinal parasites in canines include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and skin lesions.

Parasite Control in Dogs

Fleas, ticks, heartworms and intestinal worms – for their small size, these parasites pack a lot of misery for you and your pet. Besides driving your faithful companion crazy, they pose a hazard to pets and people.

Fortunately, you’re not without the means to fight back. What follows are guidelines and recommendations to keep your household safe and happy.

Know the Enemy

The first thing is to know what you’re up against:

  • Intestinal Parasites.

    Dogs are victims of several internal parasites including roundworms, coccidia, giardia, hookworms and whipworms and can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and anemia. The most common are roundworms (ascarids) that infest nearly every puppy at some time in his life. Usually they are born with them; they are passed from mother to young.

    Tapeworms can be a big problem when flea infestation is high. Adult dogs typically acquire worms when they lick up microscopic eggs that are ever-present in contaminated soil or grass, or they swallow a flea. Mature dogs usually develop a resistance to most intestinal parasites, but the whipworm (Trichuris vulpis) can still cause problems, leading to colitis (inflammation of the colon) and weight loss.

    Evidence of roundworms and tapeworms can be seen without the aid of a microscope, but other worms are not so easily diagnosed. Early diagnosis is important because all worms do not respond to the same treatment.

    For information on illness caused by these internal creatures, see the articles “Intestinal Parasites” and “Protozoan Parasites.”

  • Fleas.

    Watching a flea-bitten pet scratch herself desperately is a heart-rending sight. Fleas are a common problem for dogs, cats and people, who can also be bitten. As if the bite wasn’t bad enough, many dogs are allergic to fleas.

    When a flea bites your dog, it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. Some animals may have fleas without showing discomfort, but an unfortunate number of dogs become sensitized to this saliva. In highly allergic animals, the bite of a single flea can cause severe itching and scratching. Fleas cause the most common skin disease of dogs, which is called Flea Allergy Dermatitis. Other concerns regarding fleas can be found in the article The Dangers of Fleas in Dogs.

  • Ticks.

    These creatures present another set of problems. When ticks are in need of a blood meal, they seek out prey by heat sensors. When a warm object passes by them, they attach themselves by clinging to clothing or fur or falling from trees onto the object and insert pincher-like mouthparts into the skin and begin feeding. These mouthparts are locked in place and will only dislodge when the tick has completed the meal. Once the meal is complete, the adult female falls from the prey and seeks shelter. Eggs are born and the adult female dies.

    Dogs are a common target for ticks. If you live in an area populated with ticks you should keep a sharp eye on these parasites. They can transmit serious diseases (such as rickettsial diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis) to dogs and even to humans. Find out more by reading The Dangers of Ticks in Dogs.

  • Heartworms.

    Heartworms have the potential to cause serious illness. All it takes is one bite from a mosquito carrying a heartworm larva. In time, the larva develops into a full-fledged adult worm, finding a home in the arteries of the lungs. Without treatment, dogs with heartworm disease will become lethargic, lose their appetite and begin to have difficulty breathing. Heart failure can also occur. For more information, read Canine Heartworm Disease.

  • The Battle Plan

  • Preventing Intestinal Parasites.

    Puppies are regularly dewormed for roundworms and hookworms at the time of their “puppy shots.” If your puppy hasn’t been dewormed, talk to your veterinarian about getting this important step taken care of. A stool sample should be collected prior to each puppy vaccination visit, and a follow up sample examined at the appropriate interval after the last deworming medication has been given.

    Worms can affect mature dogs as well. A yearly fecal exam is recommended for most adult dogs unless the dog is taking a heartworm preventative that also controls intestinal parasites. With primarily outdoor dogs, it may be beneficial to evaluate stool samples two or three times a year if the risk of infection is high. Or you may decide to administer a heartworm preventative that also controls intestinal parasites. Some of the newer heartworm combinations fight all three threats: heartworms, intestinal parasites and fleas.

  • Fighting Fleas and Ticks.

    Even minor flea bites can cause severe reactions in some pets. Though the itching component to flea-allergy can be treated with antihistamines or even corticosteriods (prescribed by your veterinarian), the best approach is to kill the flea and prevent its return. There are many products available to treat flea infestations. Some of the over-the-counter powders, sprays and collars (such as those from Hartz® or Sergeants®) contain permethrin, which is moderately effective.

    However, the best flea products are prescription – see your veterinarian for these. Products such as Program® (lufenuron) and Sentinel® (which also prevents heartworm disease) prevent development of fleas that attack your dog. If your dog already has fleas, then you need to kill them first with a product like Capstar® brand of nitenpyram, Frontline® brand of fipronil or Advantage® brand of imidacloprid. Some of these have residual effects that can also control ticks. A new product, Revolution®, is a topical treatment to prevent external parasites, heartworm and intestinal parasites. In addition to these prescription products, a collar tag called Preventic® is also effective in controlling ticks on some dogs. Other ideas can be found in Flea Control and Prevention.

    In tough cases, you may have to wage all-out war to conquer fleas. This means a comprehensive flea control program, requiring treatment of the pet, the pet’s bed, the yard and the house. A variety of sprays, dips, powders, foams and oral products may be recommended.

    Ticks are very difficult to control, but a program of tick prevention and meticulously combing and grooming your dog can keep them at bay. See the related article “How To Remove and Prevent Ticks.”

  • Preventing Heartworm Disease.

    Preventing heartworm disease is easier and much preferred to treating an active heartworm infection. Treatment is easy – just one tablet once a month. Please see “Heartworm Prevention Guidelines for Dogs.”

    Not all parasitic diseases can be prevented but many can be treated. Mites are parasites that can cause serious illness in your dog. For more information, see Ear Mites in Dogs, Sarcoptic Mange, Demodicosis and Cheyletiellosis.

  • Heartworm Prevention Guidelines for Dogs

    Canine heartworm disease is a serious parasitic disease caused by a long, thin worm that lives in the blood vessels and heart of infected dogs. The disease is spread from dog to dog (and to cat) by mosquitoes. The mosquito bites a dog with heartworm infection, collects some of the microscopic heartworm offspring and then, after a couple of weeks, passes these on to another dog or cat.

    Inside the dog, the microscopic heartworm can grow into a parasite exceeding a foot in length. The life cycle is somewhat complicated. The important thing is to prevent worm development using safe and effective preventative drugs.

     

     

    Heartworms are present (endemic) in most parts of the United States and in many parts of North America. Mosquitoes are the key – without them the disease cannot spread. The highest rate of infections are found in subtropical climates like those of the southeastern United States, the Gulf states and Hawaii. However, heartworms are also found throughout the central and eastern United States, particularly near oceans, lakes and rivers. Heartworm disease injures the lungs, the arteries of the lungs and the heart. Symptoms include tiring, coughing, weight loss and heart failure. Heartworm infection in dogs is usually diagnosed by a blood test.

    Prevention

    Prevention of heartworm disease is simple. In most cases, a once-monthly prescription tablet or topical treatment is all that is needed to effectively protect your pet. These products include milbemycin oxime (Interceptor Flavor Tabs® and Sentinel Flavor Tabs®), ivermectin (Heartgard® for Dogs), and topical selamectin (Revolution®).

    These preventatives are only available from your veterinarian, who must first make certain that your dog is not heartworm positive. These “preventatives” kill microscopic larvae that are left behind by mosquitoes when they bite a dog. Before beginning heartworm prevention, any dog over 7 months of age should first have a heartworm test. Preventatives in heartworm positive dogs can cause severe reactions. Repeated heartworm blood testing every year is recommended even for dogs taking heartworm preventative year round. Previous recommendations were for every 1 – 3 year testing but this changed with the 2005 American Heartworm Society (AHS) recommendations to yearly testing. This is due to concern with breaks of pets on preventatives that still contracted heartworms. Annual testing will ensure that an infection is caught in plenty of time to effectively manage it. Testing is also recommended when a pet owner switches between preventative medications.

    Recommendations

    The AHS recommends that all dogs in areas endemic for heartworms should take a year-round preventative. If you are not certain about the danger of heartworms in your area, call your veterinarian. Most veterinarians follow the guidelines published by the American Heartworm Society, a group of concerned veterinarians and scientists. As noted above, dogs over 7 months of age should first have a heartworm test.

    The recommended heartworm prevention is a once-monthly pill (milbemycin oxime sold as Interceptor Flavor Tabs® and lufenuron/milbemycin oxime sold as Sentinel Flavor Tabs®, ivermectin sold as Heartgard® or Heartgard Plus® or a topical treatment selamectin (sold as Revolution®). Speak to your veterinarian about administration guidelines.

    Some heartworm preventatives also control intestinal or external parasites. The wide range of excellent and safe heartworm prescription products can be explained by your veterinarian.

    For more information about the most recent recommendations on heartworm prevention, visit the guidelines posted on the Society’s web site at www.heartwormsociety.org.

    How to Remove and Prevent Ticks in Cats

    Ticks, are irritating arthropods that prey on cats. Their goal in life is to find a warm-blooded creature so that they can feed. Veterinarians and pet owners have been battling these tiny parasites for decades and the war continues.

    Ticks are members of the Acarina order and are not insects. Ticks and mites are in a class all by themselves. In the transmission of disease, mosquitoes and ticks are the primary concern, with ticks being the most important.

    Ticks are divided into 3 different families. Only 2 of these families are present in the US, the Ixodidae (hard tick) family and the Argasidae (soft tick) family. Within the Ixodidae, there are about 60 different species that have been reported in the US. Within the Argasidae family, there are about 20 reported US species.

    There are 4 stages in the life cycle of a tick: egg, larva, nymph and adult. This life cycle can be completed within 2 months. The larvae, nymph and adults all feed on blood and after a feeding, the tick falls from the feeding source and the larva will molt to a nymph, the nymph will molt to an adult and the female adult will lay eggs. Male ticks ingest far less blood than females.

    When ticks are in need of a blood meal, they seek out prey by heat sensors. When a warm object passes by them, they attach to this object by clinging to clothing or fur or falling from trees onto the object.

    After the prey has been chosen, the tick migrates to an area that has little hair or does not present difficulty in feeding (the ears and skin around the ears or lips are common places). The tick inserts its pincher-like mouthparts into the skin and begins feeding. These mouthparts are locked in place and will only dislodge when the tick has completed the meal. Once the meal is complete, the adult female will fall from the prey and seek shelter. Eggs are born and the adult female dies.

    Tick Removal

    Many methods have been tried to remove ticks, many of which are not recommended. Applying a recently extinguished match or even a still lit match to the body of the tick will NOT cause the tick to back out and fall off. The mouthparts only let go when the tick has completed the meal. Also, applying fingernail polish will suffocate the tick but will not cause the tick to fall off.

    • The best recommendation to remove a tick is to use a tweezers or commercially available tick removal device and pull the tick off. Do not touch the tick since diseases can be transmitted. Consider wearing gloves when removing a tick.
    • With a tweezers or tick removal device, grab the tick as close to the head as possible. With steady, gentle pressure, pull the tick out of the skin. Frequently, pieces of skin may come off with the tick.
    • If the head of the tick remains in the skin, try to grab it and remove as much as possible. If you are unable to remove the entire head, don’t fret. This is not life threatening. Your pet’s immune system will try to dislodge the head by creating a site of infection or even a small abscess.
    • Usually no additional therapy is needed, but if you are concerned, contact your family veterinarian. There are surgical instruments that can be used to remove the remaining part of the tick.

    Tick Control and Prevention

    Control and prevention of ticks is extremely important in reducing the risk of disease associated with ticks. This includes removing the ticks as soon as possible and trying to prevent attachment.

    Tick avoidance requires avoiding environments that harbor them. Extra care should be taken in the woods and areas with tall grass or low brushes. When traveling, be aware that certain areas of the country have a much higher incidence of ticks (i.e. the northeast). In addition, since they can be carried unknowingly from one place to another on clothing or the body, it is always possible for an individual or animal to come into contact with a tick.

    Ticks may be killed by spraying, dipping, bathing, or powdering, or applying topical medications to affected individuals with appropriate tick-killing products. Tick collars or products applied topically may act to prevent attachment of new ticks and to promote detachment of ticks already attached.

    There are many products on the market that control ticks. Some are over the counter; others are prescription, only available through your veterinarian. Whether one purchases an over the counter or prescription product, it is a good idea to consult your veterinarian first.

    How to Remove and Prevent Ticks in Your Dog

    Ticks are irritating arthropods that prey on dogs. Their goal in life is to find a warm-blooded creature so that they can feed. Veterinarians and pet owners have been battling these tiny parasites for decades and the war continues.

    Ticks are members of the Acarina order and are not insects. Ticks and mites are in a class all by themselves. In the transmission of disease, mosquitoes and ticks are the primary concern, with ticks being the most important.

    Ticks are divided into 3 different families. Only 2 of these families are present in the US, the Ixodidae (hard tick) family and the Argasidae (soft tick) family. Within the Ixodidae, there are about 60 different species that have been reported in the US. Within the Argasidae family, there are about 20 reported US species.

    There are 4 stages in the life cycle of a tick: egg, larva, nymph and adult. This life cycle can be completed within 2 months. The larvae, nymph and adults all feed on blood and after a feeding, the tick falls from the feeding source and the larva will molt to a nymph, the nymph will molt to an adult and the female adult will lay eggs. Male ticks ingest far less blood than females.

    When ticks are in need of a blood meal, they seek out prey by heat sensors. When a warm object passes by them, they attach to this object by clinging to clothing or fur or falling from trees onto the object. Dogs are a common target for ticks.

    After the prey has been chosen, the tick migrates to an area that has little hair or does not present difficulty in feeding (the ears and skin around the ears or lips are common places). The tick inserts its pincher-like mouthparts into the skin and begins feeding. These mouthparts are locked in place and will only dislodge when the tick has completed the meal. Once the meal is complete, the adult female will fall from the prey and seek shelter. Eggs are born and the adult female dies.

    Tick Removal

    Many methods have been tried to remove ticks, many of which are not recommended. Applying a recently extinguished match or even a still lit match to the body of the tick will NOT cause the tick to back out and fall off. The mouthparts only let go when the tick has completed the meal. Also, applying fingernail polish will suffocate the tick but will not cause the tick to fall off.

    • The best recommendation to remove a tick is to use a tweezers or commercially available tick removal device and pull the tick off. Do not touch the tick since diseases can be transmitted. Use a tissue or paper towel to protect your fingers. Consider wearing gloves when removing a tick.
    • With a tweezers or tick removal device, grab the tick as close to the head as possible. With steady, gentle pressure, pull the tick out of the skin. Frequently, pieces of skin may come off with the tick. Do not twist the tick – pull straight up and out.
    • If the head of the tick remains in the skin, try to grab it and remove as much as possible. If you are unable to remove the entire head, don’t fret. This is not life threatening. Your pet’s immune system will try to dislodge the head by creating a site of infection or even a small abscess. Wash your hands.
    • Usually no additional therapy is needed, but if you are concerned, contact your family veterinarian. There are surgical instruments that can be used to remove the remaining part of the tick.

    Tick Control and Prevention

    Control and prevention of ticks is extremely important in reducing the risk of disease associated with ticks. This includes removing the ticks as soon as possible and trying to prevent attachment.

    Tick avoidance requires avoiding environments that harbor them. Extra care should be taken in the woods and areas with tall grass or low brushes. When traveling, be aware that certain areas of the country have a much higher incidence of ticks (i.e. the northeast). In addition, since they can be carried unknowingly from one place to another on clothing or the body, it is always possible for an individual or animal to come into contact with a tick.

    Ticks may be killed by spraying, dipping, bathing, or powdering, or applying topical medications to affected individuals with appropriate tick-killing products. Tick collars or products applied topically may act to prevent attachment of new ticks and to promote detachment of ticks already attached.

    The Dangers of Fleas in Cats

    If you have a cat, you are probably familiar with fleas. And you’re probably familiar with the many commercials and advertisements that encourage you to purchase products to get rid of fleas or prevent them from feeding on your pet. We place a lot of importance in preventing fleas in our pets because fleas are more than just blood-sucking insects; fleas are responsible for causing and transmitting diseases in cats. Some of these include:

    Flea allergy dermatitis is a common ailment associated with flea bites. Though each bite from a flea can cause minor skin irritation, some cats can develop an allergy to the saliva of the flea. What this means is that just one flea bite can result in significant irritation, itchiness and aggravation. Flea allergy dermatitis is an itchy illness and cats will commonly scratch, resulting in hair loss. Typically, the hair at the base of the tail is usually affected but small scabs and redness are present all over the cat’s body. The primary treatment of flea allergy dermatitis is to remove the existing fleas and prevent future flea bites.

    Tapeworms are a common parasite associated with fleas. Though not transmitted by bites, fleas cause tapeworm infestations when the cat grooms and ingests a flea carrying the tapeworm larva. After ingestion, the tapeworm larva continues to develop in the cat’s gastrointestinal tract. When developed, the head of the tapeworm attaches to the intestinal wall and small egg-filled segments periodically break off and are passed out the rectum. These segments are fed on by flea larva and the cycle continues. Though tapeworms do not usually result in illness in the cat, removal of the tapeworm is recommended.

    Flea bite anemia occurs in severe flea infestations or in tiny kittens. When a flea bites, it feeds on blood. With many fleas feeding at the same time, significant blood loss can occur, resulting in severe anemia. Blood transfusions, iron supplementation and hospitalization are frequently necessary. Some cats may not survive flea bite anemia.

    Hemobartonella is a blood parasite transmitted by fleas. This parasite attaches to red blood cells, resulting in the eventual destruction of these oxygen carrying cells. If left untreated, hemobartonella results in serious anemia. Blood transfusions and hospitalization, as well as specific antibiotics, are needed to give the cat a chance of survival. About a third of the cats affected with hemobartonella do not survive.

    The plague is not a thing of the past. Still occurring in the American southwest, Yersinia pestis, the bacterial cause of the plague, is transmitted by fleas. Cats and humans are susceptible to this bacteria. Cats affected may show signs of abscesses, breathing difficulty, weakness or fever. Treatment includes hospitalization, intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Removal of the fleas is crucial.

    By learning the potential illnesses that can be caused by those fleas, you may understand why there are so many flea products available. Not only is the flea a nuisance, it can also be life-threatening.

    Flea Control and Prevention in Cats

    For millions of pets and people, the tiny flea is a remorseless enemy. The flea is a small, brown, wingless insect that uses specialized mouth parts to pierce the skin and siphon blood.

    When a flea bites your cat, it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. Some animals may have fleas without showing discomfort, but an unfortunate number of cats become sensitized to this saliva. In highly allergic animals, the bite of a single flea can cause severe itching and scratching. Fleas cause the most common skin disease of cats – flea allergy dermatitis.

    If your pet develops hypersensitivity to flea saliva, several changes may result:

  • A small hive may develop at the site of the fleabite, which either heals or develops into a tiny red bump that eventually crusts over.
  • The cat may scratch and chew at herself until the area is hairless, raw and weeping serum (“hot spots”). This can cause hair loss, redness, scaling, bacterial infection and increased pigmentation of the skin.

    The distribution often involves the lower back, base of the tail, toward the back, the abdomen, flanks and neck. It may become quite generalized in the severe case, leading to total body involvement.

    Remember that the flea spends the majority of its life in the environment, not on your pet, so it may be difficult to find. In fact, your cat may continue to scratch without you ever seeing a flea on her. Check your cat carefully for fleas or for signs of flea excrement (also called flea dirt), which looks like coarsely ground pepper. When moistened, flea dirt turns a reddish brown because it contains blood. If one cat in the household has fleas, assume that all pets in the household have fleas. A single flea found on your pet means that there are probably hundreds of fleas, larva, pupa and eggs in your house.

    If you see tapeworm segments in your cat’s stool, he may have had fleas at one time or may still have them. The flea can act as an intermediate host of the tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum. Through grooming or biting, the animal ingests an adult flea containing tapeworm eggs. Once released, the tapeworm grows to maturity in the small intestine. The cycle can take less than a month, so a key to tapeworm prevention is flea control.

  • The Life Cycle of the Flea

    The flea’s life cycle has four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The adult flea uses your cat as a place to take its blood meals and breed. Fleas either lay eggs directly on the cat where they may drop off, or deposit eggs into the immediate surroundings (your home or backyard). Because the female may lay several hundred eggs during the course of its life, the number of fleas present intensifies the problem. The eggs hatch into larvae that live in carpeting, cracks or corners of the cat’s living area. The larvae survive by ingesting dried blood, animal dander and other organic matter. To complete the life cycle, larvae develop into pupae that hatch into adults. The immediate source of adult fleas within the house is the pupa, not the cat. The adult flea emerges from the pupa and then hops onto the host.

    This development occurs more quickly in a warm, humid environment. Pupae can lie dormant for months, but under temperate conditions fleas complete their life cycle in about three weeks. The inside of your home may provide a warm environment to allow fleas to thrive year round.

    Fighting the Flea

    Types of commercial products available for flea control include flea collars, shampoos, sprays, powders and dips. Other, newer, products include oral and systemic spot-on insecticides.

    In the past, topical insecticide sprays, powders and dips were the most popular. However, the effect was often temporary. Battling infestations requires attacking areas where the eggs, larvae, pupae and adults all congregate. Because some stages of a flea’s life can persist for months, chemicals with residual action are needed and should be repeated periodically. Sprays or foggers, which require leaving the house for several hours, should be used twice in 2-week intervals and then every two months during the flea season.

    Treating animals and their living areas thoroughly and at the same time is vital; otherwise some fleas will survive and re-infest your pet. You may even need to treat your yard or kennel with an insecticide, if the infestation is severe enough.

    The vacuum cleaner can be a real aid in removing flea eggs and immature forms. Give special attention to cracks and corners. At the end of vacuuming, either vacuum up some flea powder into your vacuum bag, or throw the bag out. Otherwise, the cleaner will only serve as an incubator, releasing more fleas into the environment as they hatch. In some cases, you may want to obtain the services of a licensed pest control company. These professionals have access to a variety of insecticides and they know what combinations work best in your area.

    Flea Control and Prevention in Dogs

    The flea is a small, brown, wingless insect that uses specialized mouth parts to pierce the skin and siphon blood. For millions of pets and people, it is a remorseless enemy.

    When a flea bites your dog, it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. Some animals may have fleas without showing discomfort, but an unfortunate number of dogs become sensitized to this saliva. In highly allergic animals, the bite of a single flea can cause severe itching and scratching. Fleas cause the most common skin disease of dogs – flea allergy dermatitis.

    If your pet develops hypersensitivity to flea saliva, several changes may result:

  • A small hive may develop at the site of the flea bite, which either heals or develops into a tiny red bump that eventually crusts over.
  • The dog may scratch and chew at himself until the area is hairless, raw and weeping serum (“hot spots”). This can cause hair loss, redness, scaling, bacterial infection and increased pigmentation of the skin.

    The distribution often involves the lower back, base of the tail, toward the back, the abdomen, flanks and neck. It may become quite generalized in severe cases, leading to total body involvement.

    Remember that the flea spends the majority of its life in the environment, not on your pet, so it may be difficult to find. In fact, your dog may continue to scratch without you ever seeing a flea on him. Check your dog carefully for fleas or for signs of flea excrement (also called flea dirt), which looks like coarsely ground pepper. When moistened, flea dirt turns a reddish brown because it contains blood.

    If one dog in the household has fleas, assume that all pets in the household have fleas. A single flea found on your pet means that there are probably hundreds of fleas, larva, pupa and eggs in your house.

    If you see tapeworm segments in your dog’s stool, he may have had fleas at one time or may still have them. The flea can act as an intermediate host of the tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum. Through grooming or biting, the animal ingests an adult flea containing tapeworm eggs. Once released, the tapeworm grows to maturity in the small intestine. The cycle can take less than a month, so a key to tapeworm prevention is flea control.

  • The Life Cycle of the Flea

    The flea’s life cycle has four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The adult flea uses your dog as a place to take its blood meals and breed. Fleas either lay eggs directly on the dog where they may drop off or deposit eggs into the immediate surroundings (your home or backyard). Because the female may lay several hundred eggs during the course of its life, the number of fleas present intensifies the problem. The eggs hatch into larvae that live in carpeting, cracks or corners of the dog’s living area. The larvae survive by ingesting dried blood, animal dander and other organic matter. To complete the life cycle, larvae develop into pupae that hatch into adults. The immediate source of adult fleas within the house is the pupa, not the dog. The adult flea emerges from the pupa and then hops onto the host.

    This development occurs more quickly in a warm, humid environment. Pupae can lie dormant for months, but under temperate conditions fleas complete their life cycle in about three weeks. The inside of your home may provide a warm environment to allow fleas to thrive year round.

     

    Fighting the Flea

    Types of commercial products available for flea control include flea collars, shampoos, sprays, powders and dips. Other, newer, products include oral and systemic spot-on insecticides.

    In the past, topical insecticide sprays, powders and dips were the most popular. However, the effect was often temporary. Battling infestations requires attacking areas where the eggs, larvae, pupae and adults all congregate. Because some stages of a flea’s life can persist for months, chemicals with residual action are needed and should be repeated periodically. Sprays or foggers, which required leaving the house for several hours, have been used twice in 2-week intervals and then every two months during the flea season.

    Treating animals and their living areas thoroughly and at the same time is vital; otherwise some fleas will survive and re-infect your pet. You may even need to treat your yard or kennel with an insecticide, if the infestation is severe enough.

    The vacuum cleaner can be a real aid in removing flea eggs and immature forms. Give special attention to cracks and corners. At the end of vacuuming, either vacuum up some flea powder into your vacuum bag, or throw the bag out. Otherwise, the cleaner will only serve as an incubator, releasing more fleas into the environment as they hatch. In some cases, you may want to obtain the services of a licensed pest control company. These professionals have access to a variety of insecticides and they know what combinations work best in your area.

    How to Eliminate Fleas on Your Cat

    Few things wreak havoc on summer fun like fleas. These tiny, nearly invisible creatures have been pestering cats and their owners since the beginning of time, or pretty close to it. One bite from these wingless blood suckers can cause itching for days, and where there is one flea, it's a safe bet there are plenty more looming in your carpet, furniture, bedding, and on your four-legged friends.

    Worse yet, some cats are sensitive to fleas and can have an allergic reaction known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), one of the most common skin diseases seen in small animal practices. One flea bite can make a cat's life (and yours!) miserable – plunging him into a vicious cycle of biting, scratching, and licking.

    Despite the yuck factor, fleas (and ticks) are no joking matter, as they also can spread diseases to cats and humans. The most common risk is tapeworm, which can be transmitted when a cat swallows a flea. Tapeworms can also infect humans, especially kids, who inadvertently ingest a flea. About one-eighth inch long, slightly smaller than a sesame seed, and generally brown or black in color, the cat flea, in serious infestations, also can cause anemia, especially in kittens.

    Cat Flea Basics

    More than 2,200 species of fleas exist worldwide. In North America, the Ctenocephalides felis, also known as the cat flea, is the most common flea and is the flea responsible for also infecting dogs.

    Fleas feeding on your cat inject saliva that contains different antigens and histamine-like substances, resulting in irritation and itching sensations that can range from mild to downright nasty. Cats with flea allergies usually itch over their entire bodies, experience generalized hair loss, and develop red, inflamed skin and hot spots. Frequently restless and uncomfortable, cats usually spend the majority of their time scratching, digging, licking, and chewing their skin. It's a vicious cycle and a miserable and agonizing situation for cats. Many cats will also get a secondary skin infection that look like small bumps called military dermatitis.

    Female fleas can produce up to 40 or 50 eggs per day during peak egg production, averaging 27 eggs per day for 50 days. Some females continue to produce eggs for more than 100 days, with some laying up to 2,000 eggs in their lifespan of up to one year. If you live where the temperature freezes, count your blessings. The cat flea is susceptible to cold, and that means it can't survive more than a few days when exposed to temperatures below 37º F (3º C).


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    Getting Rid of Fleas on Your Cat

    Flea control and treatment recommendations vary with individual situations and can be multi-faceted – depending on the severity of infestation, number of cats and dogs in the environment, and the owners' finances. Thankfully, highly effective flea control products – ranging from once-a-month topical treatments including FrontlineAdvantage, and Revolution, to chewable tablets, such as Comfortis - are readily available with varying safety and efficacy. Always check with your veterinarian before using flea-control products.

    You also will want to focus on your home and yard, as any effective flea control program includes treating your cats and their environment.

    • NEVER treat a cat with a flea product labeled for dogs without the approval of your veterinarian.
    • Treat any other household pets that can serve as hosts, such as other dogs, cats, and ferrets.
    • Clean everything your cat has come in contact with. Wash his beds and blankets weekly. (Some say adding apple-cider vinegar to the rinse discourages new fleas.)
    • Mop floors and vacuum all carpets, rugs, and furniture. Immediately dispose of vacuum bags because eggs can hatch in them.
    • If necessary, remove dense vegetation near your home, yard, or kennel area – these spaces offer a damp micro-environment that is favorable to flea development.


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    How to Eliminate Fleas on Your Dog

    Fleas aren't just a danger for one pet – they can affect the whole household.
    Few things wreak havoc on summer fun like fleas. These tiny, nearly invisible creatures have been pestering pets and their owners since the beginning of time, or pretty close to it. One bite from these wingless blood suckers can cause itching for days, and where there is one flea, it’s a safe bet there are plenty more looming in your carpet, furniture, bedding, and on your four-legged friends.

    Worse yet, some dogs are sensitive to fleas and can have an allergic reaction known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), one of the most common skin diseases seen in small animal practices. One flea bite can make a dog's life (and yours!) miserable – plunging him into a vicious cycle of biting, scratching, and licking.

    Despite the yuck factor, fleas (and ticks) are no joking matter, as they also can spread diseases to dogs and humans. The most common risk is tapeworm, which can be transmitted when a dog swallows a flea. Tapeworms can also infect humans, especially kids, who inadvertently ingest a flea. About one-eighth inch long, slightly smaller than a sesame seed, and generally brown or black in color, the cat flea, in serious infestations, also can cause anemia, especially in puppies.

    Dog Flea Basics

    More than 2,200 species of fleas exist worldwide. In North America, the Ctenocephalides felis, also known as the cat flea, is the most common flea. How ironic is it that the cat flea is responsible for wreaking havoc with your dog?

    Fleas feeding on your dog inject saliva that contains different antigens and histamine-like substances, resulting in irritation and itching sensations that can range from mild to downright nasty. Dogs with flea allergies usually itch over their entire bodies, experience generalized hair loss, and develop red, inflamed skin and hot spots. Frequently restless and uncomfortable, dogs usually spend the majority of their time scratching, digging, licking, and chewing their skin. It’s a vicious cycle and a miserable and agonizing situation for pets.

    Female cat fleas can produce up to 40 or 50 eggs per day during peak egg production, averaging 27 eggs per day for 50 days. Some females continue to produce eggs for more than 100 days, with some laying up to 2,000 eggs in their lifespan of up to one year. If you live where the temperature freezes, count your blessings. The cat flea is susceptible to cold, and that means it can’t survive more than a few days when exposed to temperatures below 37º F (3º C).


    (?)

    Getting Rid of Fleas on Your Dog

    Flea control and treatment recommendations vary with individual situations and can be multi-faceted – depending on the severity of infestation, number of dogs in the environment, and the owners' finances. Thankfully, highly effective flea control products – ranging from once-a-month topical treatments including FrontlineAdvantage, and Revolution, to chewable tablets, such as Comfortis - are readily available with varying safety and efficacy. Always check with your veterinarian before using flea-control products.

    You also will want to focus on your home and yard, as any effective flea control program includes treating your dogs and their environment.

    • Treat any other household pets that can serve as hosts, such as other dogs, cats, and ferrets.
    • Clean everything your dog has come in contact with. Wash his dog beds and blankets weekly. (Some say adding apple-cider vinegar to the rinse discourages new fleas.)
    • Mop floors and vacuum all carpets, rugs, and furniture. Immediately dispose of vacuum bags because eggs can hatch in them.
    • If necessary, remove dense vegetation near your home, dog yard, or kennel area – these spaces offer a damp micro-environment that is favorable to flea development.


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