It's spring, where are the ticks and fleas?
The arrival of ticks and fleas can be a real nightmare. It is better to be safe than sorry when this season arrives in our region.
Some of these little creatures have survived our winter as cocoons, patiently waiting for the temperature to rise above 4 to 7 degrees Celsius so that they can quickly find a host to feed on and reproduce. These parasites are happy to feed on any warm-blooded mammal, including humans!
In North America, there are more than one hundred tick genera and about forty in Canada, including twelve species that can potentially spread certain diseases to animals and humans, such as Lyme disease.
The tick in our region responsible for the transmission of Lyme disease to dogs and humans (very rarely to cats) is Ixodes scapularis ("blacklegged tick" or "deer tick").
These arachnid mites grow from one millimeter to more than 4 to 6 mm once engorged with blood. Their sting is painless because they secrete a local analgesic. The anchoring may take one to two days to complete and then the meal will usually last several days, between 3 and 14 days. Their color is in the range of browns more or less black, so generally quite dark.
The geographical limit of Ixodes scapularis (IS) is poorly defined, but it is known that they often travel on our migratory birds. Also, now that our winters are getting shorter and less severe, ticks have managed to adapt and to these. In addition to the cold season, ticks can be found in wooded areas, where they wait perched in shrubby or herbaceous plants to pounce on their victims. They multiply rapidly and can lay 20,000 eggs per season!
Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs
Lyme disease (LD) usually begins 2 to 5 months after a tick bite. Only 5% of dogs infected with the bacteria will develop symptoms of fever, joint pain, lameness and soreness. The bacteria can lodge in the kidneys and cause permanent damage. Diagnosis of MDL is made by a simple and quick blood test in a veterinary clinic. In the event of a positive result, various tests will be recommended to check for other organ damage and antibiotic therapy will be prescribed. Let's inspect our pet every day to confirm that no ticks have attached themselves and remove them promptly.
The most common flea found on our cats and dogs is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis (CF). They remain temporarily on our pets, skin and clothing when we come in contact with them. The fleas use humans as a "cab", waiting to jump to a more suitable host. When they are on our pets, fleas quickly lay their eggs, which then fall everywhere: on our furniture, carpets and inside our cars.
Signs that our household has fleas will be the presence of particles resembling ground pepper (flea droppings) in the places where our pet lies down and often our pets scratch more than usual. The pruritus is usually intense and directed mainly to the lower back, thigh and groin. In addition, in cats, the itching and subsequent wounds can reach the head and neck and even spread.
Diseases transmitted by fleas
In addition to the itching caused by the punctures, the infected fleas can give by ingestion, bite or indirect contact diseases such as tapeworm or tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) bartonellosis where many cats are healthy carriers, but a zoonosis for humans. Panleukopenia or typhus (FPV Feline Parvovirus), ringworm and plague are also different diseases that can be transmitted to our pets. Plague and typhus are very rare in Canada.
Another condition caused by flea bites is the allergic response to flea bites. In fact, some pets show a severe reaction to flea bites. Their skin may swell, tingle and become irritated, or they may develop hives and a rash called Flea Saliva Allergic Dermatitis (FSAD).
Whether it is for ticks or fleas, if our pet has a lifestyle that exposes it to these creatures there are prophylactic medications, either in chewable cubes or liquid to be poured on the skin that our veterinarian can prescribe. Our veterinarian, a professional in animal health and welfare, is really the best person to answer our questions and suggest the best preventive treatment for our animals' external parasites. In addition, research is very active in the fight against parasites every year. As a result, new molecules are continuously available. Thus, more and more easy-to-use, effective and safe products are appearing on the market on a regular basis.
In addition, if our home is infested with fleas, we must adopt a more global approach in two steps. In addition to treating our pet against these parasites, we will need to vacuum (and then dispose of the bag) the areas our pet has visited to eliminate the possibility of eggs, larvae or other adult parasites hiding there.
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