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External Parasites

Fleas

Life Cycle
Eggs are laid on the pet and fall to the ground where they hatch into larvae. The larval stages feed on organic material in the environment. They live deep in the carpet or lawn.

The pupae develop when the larvae form cocoons. They quickly emerge as adult fleas when the ideal temperature (above 70 degrees) and humidity (above 70%) exist.

The adult flea has up to 30 days to find a host or it will die. After the female's first blood meal, the reproductive cycle begins, and within 48 hours she starts laying her eggs. From this point on, the flea does not leave the pet except by death from insecticide, preening by the pet, or old age.

Behavior
Summer months provide perfect breeding, feeding, and hatching conditions for fleas. When conditions are right, the insect can go through its entire life cycle (from egg to adult) in as few as 10 - 14 days. The adult's life span on the pet can extend several weeks. Immature fleas can exist up to 2 years in the environment. Even in winter, the fight against the flea may not end. Outside conditions may prevent or limit flea development, but inside the home, temperature conditions still permit growth.

Untreated animals can carry and support a colony of 60 - 100 fleas per week. Each female in a colony lays an average of 20 eggs per day and can produce as many as 600 eggs each month. A pet carrying approximately 60 fleas may yield as many as 18,000 eggs in a month.

The adult flea spends its entire life on the pet. If it leaves the host, chances for survival are greatly reduced. Adult fleas do not live in carpets, bedding, or furniture. However, eggs, larvae, and pupae do. This is the reason that successful flea control programs involve both the pet and the environment. The ideal time to start or intensify the flea control effort is early in the season.

Control and Treatment

  1. Vacuum all surfaces of furniture, carpets and floors thoroughly. Dispose of vacuum cleaner bag.
  2. Treat all areas the pet has access to, including basement, bedrooms, etc. with a premise insecticide. Foggers are available for large areas, trigger spray products for smaller rooms and under furniture. Insecticides with IGR (insect growth regulators) will provide the broadest eradication. Be as thorough as possible; if only a few fleas survive, the cycle will start again. Sometimes a second treatment is necessary several weeks later.
  3. Treat all pets in the household. Dips, sprays, powders and topical products are available. Read directions carefully. Not all products are safe for cats, and some may not be used on young puppies or kittens.
  4. Treat or discard any bedding the pet uses. Premise insecticide should be used in dog houses or kennels.
  5. Retreat pets according to the label of the product you are using to prevent re-infestation.

Ticks

Ticks can transmit diseases and even cause anemia or paralysis. Ticks feed on the blood of their hosts. They are attracted to warmth and motion, often seeking out mammals, including dogs. Ticks tend to hide out in tall grass or plants in wooded areas waiting for prospective hosts. Once a host is found, the tick climbs on and attaches its mouthparts into the skin, beginning the blood meal. Once locked in place, the tick will not detach until its meal is complete. It may continue to feed for several hours to days, depending on the type of tick. On dogs, ticks often attach themselves in crevices and/or areas with little to no hair – typically in and around the ears, the areas where the insides of the legs meet the body, between the toes, and within skin folds. Most species of ticks go through four life stages - eggs, larvae, nymphs, and adults. All stages beyond eggs will attach to a host for a blood meal (and must do so in order to mature). Depending on species, the life span of a tick can be several months to years, and female adults can lay hundreds to thousands of eggs at a time.

The following types of ticks are among the most common seen in North America:

  • Deer tick
  • Brown dog tick
  • Lone star tick
  • American dog tick

Deer Tick

Brown Dog Tick

Dangers of Ticks
Though they are known vectors of disease, not all ticks transmit disease – in fact, many ticks do not even carry diseases. However, the threat of disease is always present where ticks are concerned, and these risks should always be taken seriously.

Most tick-borne diseases will take several hours to transmit to a host, so the sooner a tick is located and removed, the lower the risk of disease. The symptoms of most tick-borne diseases include fever and lethargy, though some can also cause weakness, lameness, joint swelling and/or anemia.

Signs may take days, weeks or months to appear. Some ticks can cause a temporary condition called tick paralysis, which is manifested by a gradual onset of difficulty walking that may develop into paralysis. These signs typically begin to resolve after tick is removed. If you notice these or any other signs of illness in your dog, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible so that proper testing and necessary treatments can begin.

The following are some of the most common tick-borne diseases:

  • Lyme disease
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis

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