Parasites and Mosquitoes

Biting Parasites: Fleas, Ticks, Mosquitoes

Warm weather brings plenty of sunshine, beautiful flowers, and the agony of biting insects. Fleas, ticks, and even mosquitoes can make your pet's life miserable. Everyone that owns a dog or cat is familiar with the incessant itching and scratching that accompanies a flea infestation. Anyone that has ever had to remove an engorged tick knows how unpleasant a task this can be. And we all can identify with the pain and itch that accompany mosquito bites.

But these biting insects potentially cause many more problems than just discomfort. In addition to the hair loss, scabs, and skin irritations that accompany flea, tick, and mosquito bites, there is the real and frightening risk of disease spread. Fleas can cause anemia, and transmit the plague and tapeworms. Ticks can carry organisms that cause diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Embedded ticks can even cause paralysis. Animals that are allergic to flea bites can suffer torment for weeks from one single bite and tick bites can become infected. Even mosquito bites potentially spread lethal diseases. You may have thought your pets were safe because they are taking heartworm preventative, but biting mosquitoes can spread West Nile virus. Both dogs and cats can contract this virus and die from the infection.

So every single biting flea, tick, and mosquito can potentially make your pet extremely ill. The worst part is that for every one of these nasty parasites that you see on your pet, there are hundreds more in the environment. Simply removing the fleas and ticks on your pet does not eliminate them from your house and yard. Simply killing the mosquitoes near your pet does nothing to decrease the thousands that may be breeding nearby. It is critical for the health of your pet to control fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.

Luckily, there are ways to prevent flea and tick infestations. Traditional methods of flea control have included flea shampoos, dips, powders, combs, and sprays, along with premise sprays, foggers, and rug powders. Although effective, these products often only kill the adult parasites and have little or no residual activity. So, new ticks or fleas can re-infest your pet in a matter of days. Traditional methods are also time consuming and often messy.

Newer products work quickly to kill these parasites. Capstar is a tablet that is given by mouth and kills the fleas within a matter of hours. It only lasts one day, but is great at rapidly removing heavy flea infestations. Other new products kill fleas quickly and keep on killing them for several weeks. These include topical, spot-on products that are used monthly. They are applied to the skin between the pets' shoulders. These spot-on products may all look similar, but they do contain different ingredients. Some products are only safe for dogs, some work faster than others, some last longer than others, some are rinsed off with bathing, and some kill only fleas, not ticks. There is even one prescription spot-on product, Revolution that prevents heartworm disease while killing ticks and fleas.

It is very important to read the entire label to make sure that you are using the correct product for your pet's needs. The product label will explain how the product works, which animals it should be used on, and the proper dose of the product. For example, Advantage is safe for cats and dogs, and kills fleas, while Frontline Top-Spot, which is also used for cats and dogs, kills fleas and ticks. Bio-Spot and Advantix control fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, but can only be used on dogs. Revolution is safe for dogs and cats, kills fleas and ticks, and certain mites. By carefully accessing your pets' needs and reading the labels, you can pick the appropriate product for each pet in your family.

Some of the topical products, such as Frontline Plus and Bio-Spot, contain ingredients called insect growth regulators. The insect growth regulators help reduce the flea population by preventing the hatching of flea eggs and the maturation of larval fleas. The insect growth regulators are of vital importance to reduce fleas in the environment and eliminate them before they have a chance to jump on your pet. Other methods of limiting fleas in the environment include vacuuming, flea foggers, and premise sprays. The insect growth regulators are a simple, easy method of flea population control and an excellent addition to flea products that kill fleas on your pet. You can also find insect growth regulators in one of the heartworm medications, Sentinel.

There are other methods to control ticks, including tick collars, dips, and shampoos, as well as daily hands-on checks of your pets. Ticks should be removed every single day to reduce the risk of disease transmission. You can check for ticks by running your hands over your pet and feeling for unusual lumps and bumps. Make sure to check between the pads of the toes and in the ears.

Ticks should be removed as soon as they are found. Use tweezers and wear disposable gloves. Special tick removers can also be purchased. The tick should be grasped as close to the skin as possible and slowly pulled backwards, out of the skin. Do not twist the tick and do not use petroleum jelly, lit matches, or any other substance to kill the tick while it is embedded in your pet. Clean the site of the tick wound and apply antibiotic ointment. Dispose of the tick. Small, immature ticks can be found using a narrow-tined flea comb or may be picked up using a sticky lint roller before they embed in your pet's skin.

Traditional mosquito control includes products that are sprayed or rubbed on dogs that help to repel and kill the insects. In addition, Bio-Spot and Advantix will also repel and kill mosquitoes. This is important to help prevent bites that can spread illness, but does not replace the need for heartworm preventative. All dogs and cats that live in areas with mosquitoes should be tested for heartworm disease as required by the local veterinarian and placed on heartworm preventative, even if spot-on products are used. In addition to spot-on repelling and killing products, steps should be taken to remove mosquitoes from the environment. These steps include cleaning up any pools of stagnant water and using products made for outdoor mosquito control.

There are many different methods to control biting fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. Different pets may need different products. It is important to find the correct product for each individual pet in your household and to make sure that you are not overdosing any pet by combining products. For example, the heartworm medication, Revolution, also kill fleas and ticks, so additional flea control would not be necessary. It is important to read all labels to properly choose and use the products that best fit your pets' needs. With so many products available, there is no reason for any pet to suffer from these parasites. Once you identify and use the correct insect-controlling products for your pets, you can all start enjoying the warm weather and sunshine.