Is it really necessary to prevent and treat fleas and ticks? Why?

This may sound like a well, duh question, but it’s the time of year again that everyone starts thinking about flea and tick control for their pets, so I thought now would be a good time to refresh our memories as to why it’s so important for the health of our pets.

What are fleas?

Fleas are a class of wingless insects that are parasites that live exclusively by hematophagy, the consumption of blood from a host organism. There are more than 2,000 species of fleas, enjoy feeding on an extremely specific variety of hosts. There are cat fleas, dog fleas, and human fleas, as well as fleas that feed exclusively on singular species of rats, birds, and other animals—that’s what I call a picky eater!

Other parasitic insects have wings to help them with their search for a host. Fleas don’t have wings, so they jump for their supper. Some tiny little fleas can leap vertically seven inches, a and distance of more than a foot. To get an idea of what a tremendous feat that is, in comparison a human 6 feet tall, they would have to jump 160 feet high and a distance of 295 feet. Not even a gold medal olympian can do that. That’s an interesting bit of trivia, but are they dangerous?

What are the dangers?

There are many different health issues that fleas can cause for your pets, externally as well as internally. Externally there are a variety of skin problems caused by flea bites.

“Fleas can cause a wide variety of issues for your pets,” says Dr. Adam Denish of Rhawnhurst Animal Hospital in Pennsylvania “The most common of which is flea bite dermatitis, which is a specific allergy to flea saliva.”

“It leads to intense itching and scratching for your pet. That constant itching allows the skin to break open and form scabs that can get infected. It can happen in any area of the skin,” says Dr. Denish, “but the most frequent site is the back and base of the tail. It can be treated by your veterinarian. It will need the removal of the fleas as well as medications for the allergy and infection.”

In addition, there are internal health problems caused by fleas. One of which is tapeworms. Your pets may actually ingest a flea and if that flea has a tapeworm inside, and then grows inside your pet. Ewwww! Tapeworms themselves cause itchy rear end and weight loss. These have to be treated by a veterinarian.

Flea bite anemia is caused by flea bites. Fleas can ingest a tremendous amount of blood and when your pet has many fleas it can cause their red blood count to decrease and they become anemic. This can be very serious and even fatal if left untreated. Again, this would have to be treated by a veterinarian.

A danger to humans?

Dog and cat fleas don’t usually look to humans as hosts, but fleas in the home can still be a significant health risk to pet owners. They don’t actually live on human skin or hair, but they can jump from your pet to their bedding or the couch, or wherever your pet may be laying and they certainly can bite humans.

Some diseases that can be spread to humans are plague and cat scratch fever.

What about ticks?

Do you find ticks disgusting? Ticks absolutely give me the heebie-jeebies. So, what are ticks?

Ticks are another parasite that feeds on the blood of their hosts. They are attracted to warmth and motion. They are attracted to mammals, including people, dogs, and cats.

What are the dangers?

In spite of what you may have heard, not all ticks cause disease. However, where ever there are ticks there is the threat of disease. The diseases that they do carry can be very serious both to humans and pets. Most diseases that ticks carry take several hours to transmit to a host, so the sooner a tick is found and removed, the better.

Symptoms can include fever and lethargy. Some can cause weakness, lameness, joint swelling and anemia. These may take days, weeks, or months to appear.

There are some ticks that carry diseases that can cause a condition called tick paralysis. The victim may experience gradual difficulty walking and may develop into paralysis. These symptoms, however, usually resolve soon after the tick is removed.

So in conclusion, the answer is yes! It is absolutely necessary to prevent and treat fleas and ticks.

One of the tick-born diseases is Lyme disease. To learn more about how Lyme disease can affect your dog, click


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