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Fleas and ticks are an all too common problem. They’re more than just annoying, though. They may also carry harmful diseases that they can spread to dogs and cats. These diseases can cause some serious health issues for pets. Fortunately, pet parents can treat the parasites and the diseases they cause. They can also take steps to prevent the parasites in the first place.
Both fleas and ticks can spread several different diseases that can lead to serious health complications for dogs and cats.
Some of the most common diseases spread by fleas include:
Murine typhus - While this disease typically affects rats, fleas can spread the disease to other animals (including humans) after coming into contact with an infected rodent.
Cat scratch disease (CSD) - A cat that gets bitten by an infected flea can spread the disease to its human companions.
Tapeworms - Dogs and cats can get tapeworms if they accidentally ingest an infected flea. Most pet parents notice this disease too late, only when they see signs in their pet’s feces.
Ticks can also spread several different diseases, including:
Lyme disease - Lyme disease can lead to joint stiffness, fever, loss of appetite, and sensitivity to touch.
Anaplasmosis - This is a bacterial tick-borne disease that can affect either the platelets or the white blood cells. Symptoms may include lethargy, fever, joint pain, and seizures.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) - Another bacterial disease, RMSF can lead to symptoms such as fever, joint pain, and vomiting. Untreated, it can also result in permanent damage to a pet’s body.
Tick paralysis - Tick paralysis isn’t caused by bacteria. Instead, it’s a reaction in an animal’s body to a tick’s saliva. The parasite’s saliva contains a neurotoxin that can prevent voluntary movements in many pets.
If a pet parent notices fleas or ticks on their animal companion, they need to take action as soon as possible. Even if their pet isn’t exhibiting symptoms of a health concern, addressing the parasites can help to prevent more severe issues.
Pet parents can get rid of fleas with a special flea bath using medicated shampoo. In the event of fleas, they can use a tick removal tool to carefully pry the parasite loose. Oral meds like Capstar can also help kill fleas and ticks immediately and bring temporary pet relief while the larger infestation is managed. If any issues persist or pet parents notice symptoms of a flea or tick-borne disease, they should contact their primary vet right away.
There are also things pet parents can do to prevent flea and tick-borne diseases. The first step to take is getting a flea and tick medicine for dogs or a flea medicine for cats. You can purchase options such as Effipro or Capstar and apply them to their skin monthly. Even strictly indoor cats can get fleas or ticks, so prevention is essential.
Pet parents can also check their pets for ticks after coming back from spending time outdoors. A periodic inspection with a flea comb can also help to spot fleas before they become a problem. Coat inspection should be a normal part of the coming-home routine and can take as little as a few minutes when done correctly.
Fleas and ticks may be tiny, but these parasites can cause big problems for dogs and cats alike. Taking steps to prevent them is imperative for protecting the health and wellbeing of an animal companion.
While pet parents can help to prevent fleas and ticks, sometimes, they happen. Should a pet parent notice an issue, they should address it right away. In many cases, they can take care of the issue at home. If a pet parent notices their dog or cat acting unusual or suspects an illness, they should contact their primary vet or consult with an online vet right away.