What do fleas, ticks, and mosquitos have in common? They all hope to make a meal out of your pet’s blood, and they’re all capable of spreading dangerous diseases. As the weather warms, fleas, ticks, and mosquitos will become more active, potentially wreaking havoc on your pet’s health. Here’s what you need to know to keep your furry friends safe.
What fleas look like
Fleas go through four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
Adult fleas are small (approximately 2.5 millimeters in length), usually dark brown or reddish-brown in color, and have six long legs, which enable them to jump long distances.
Fleas have no wings.
Where fleas live
Contrary to popular belief, fleas can be found in even the cleanest of homes and on pets who never go outside. When fleas are present in an environment, about half of them will be flea eggs, 35 percent will be flea larvae, about 10 percent will be flea pupae, and only 5 percent of the total flea population in an environment will be adult fleas.
Why fleas are dangerous
Capable of laying up to 50 eggs each day, fleas are more than just a nuisance. They transmit diseases that can impact humans and animals, including Murine typhus, Mycoplasma haemofelis, tapeworms, and Cat Scratch Disease.
How to protect your pet from fleas
Individual fleas are difficult to kill by hand, and, if you see one flea, there are many more in various life stages hiding where you can’t see them. Use a year-round flea preventive product that kills fleas in all stages of life. Be sure to never use a canine flea preventive on a cat.
Contact us to discuss the flea preventive product that would be best for your pet.
What ticks look like
Ticks go through four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. The latter three stages all require a blood meal before molting (the shedding of the outer layer of skin) can occur.
Tick larvae are about the size of a grain of sand and have six legs. Tick nymphs have eight legs and are about the size of a sesame seed. Adult ticks are about the size of an apple seed when unfed but become engorged after feeding. They have eight legs and can be black, brown, yellowish, grayish-white, or reddish-brown in color.
Ticks have no wings.
Where ticks live
Most ticks prefer wooded, shady areas with tall weeds and grasses. Because ticks cannot fly, they will climb up tall grasses and wait for a suitable host to pass by close enough for them to latch on.
Some ticks are active year-round, but most are dormant during the winter months, often “hiding” under leaf debris until temperatures rise above about 50 degrees.
Why ticks are dangerous
Tick larvae, nymphs, and adults are capable of biting and can transmit potentially deadly diseases, including:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Cytauxzoonosis (cats)
- Alpha-Gal allergy
- Tick paralysis
How to protect your pet from ticks
Reduce tick habitat in your yard by keeping grasses and shrubs well-groomed, controlling weeds, and picking up leaf debris.
Check your pet regularly for the presence of ticks, and, if you spot one, remove it immediately because tick disease can be transmitted within 24 hours of a bite. If you’d rather us remove the tick, or if you believe part of the tick’s head or mouthparts were left behind after you removed it, call our office.
Ask us about the tick preventive medication that would be appropriate for your pet.
What mosquitos look like
Mosquitos go through four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The size of adult mosquitos varies by species, but most are smaller than 15 millimeters in length and weigh less than 2.5 milligrams. They have slender bodies, six long legs, and a pair of translucent wings.
Where mosquitos live
The U.S. is home to 150 of the more than 3,000 known mosquito species. They prefer to lay their eggs in stagnant water and can often be found in ponds, marshes, swamps, and other wetlands. Warm, humid climates are favored by mosquitos, but they can thrive in a variety of environments, and mosquito-borne diseases have been diagnosed in all 50 states.
Why mosquitos are dangerous
Adult female mosquitos feed on the blood of humans and animals and can transmit a variety of dangerous diseases. The most important mosquito-borne disease that affects dogs and cats is heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease is caused by a type of roundworm commonly referred to as heartworm because it lives in the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels of infected animals. When a mosquito bites an infected dog or cat, the heartworm larvae pass into the mosquito through the blood, and the mosquito can pass the larvae on to the next dog or cat it bites.
Once in the bloodstream, the heartworm larvae travel through the dog or cat’s body until they reach the blood vessels of the heart and lungs. Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms, so the larvae stay in those blood vessels until they mature into adult heartworms—up to 12 inches long and spaghetti-like—a process that takes about 6 months to complete. Because cats are not natural hosts for heartworms, they are not as susceptible to the disease, but they can still be infected.
Both dogs and cats infected with heartworm can suffer lifelong consequences or even death. Treating heartworm in dogs is difficult and costly, and there is currently no heartworm treatment for cats.
How to protect your pet from mosquitos
Although heartworm disease can be deadly, it can also be prevented. Both dogs and cats should receive a heartworm preventive medication on the same day each month. If the preventive is missed or given late, your pet could be at increased risk.
Contact our office to discuss which heartworm preventive is right for your pet.