Spring time is that time of the year – the big itch! Ticks & Fleas are parasites, and they are certainly unwelcome for you and your pet. Learn more about how to get rid of these pests before they start to settle in…
Fast Facts on Ticks & Fleas:
- One adult female flea can lay as many as 50 eggs a day.
- A tick lays 100 eggs at a time.
- Fleas account for more than half of all dermatological conditions requiring veterinary assistance.
- About 100 species of ticks are capable of transmitting diseases such as tick bite fever.
- Adult fleas cannot lay eggs without a blood meal, but may live from 2 months to 1 year without feeding.
- Adult ticks live for several years, and in the absence of a blood meal can survive several years of starvation.
- Fleas are excellent jumpers, leaping vertically up to 7 inches and horizontally 13 inches.
- Although ticks cannot run, hop, fly or move quickly, they are very good climbers.
They are tiny and jump increasable heights and lengths to get to where they want to be. One second they are there and the next they are gone, leaving behind an itchy red welt.
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Fleas are wingless insects that are agile, usually dark in colour and their legs are long with the hind pair well adapted for jumping. The flea body is hard, polished, and covered with many hairs and short spines directed backward, which assist its movements on the host. The tough body is able to withstand great pressure but it is possible to eliminate them by rolling a flea briskly between the fingers to disable it then crushing it between the fingernails. Fleas can also be drowned in water and may not survive direct contact with anti-flea products.
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Fleas are known as external parasites. They have tube-like mouth-parts adapted to feeding on the blood of their hosts which usually consists of dogs, cats, rats, rabbits, mice, squirrels, foxes, chickens and humans. Some people and animals suffer allergic reactions to flea saliva resulting in rashes. Flea bites generally result in the formation of a slightly raised, swollen itching spot with a single puncture point at the centre (similar to a mosquito bite). The bites often appear in clusters or lines of two bites, and can remain itchy and inflamed for up to several weeks afterwards. Fleas can also lead to hair loss as a result of frequent scratching and biting by the animal, and can cause anaemia in extreme cases. Besides the problems posed by the creature itself, fleas can also act as a vector for disease. Fleas transmit a variety of viral and bacterial diseases to humans and other animals. . Fleas also spread tapeworm from one animal to another.
Flea populations are evenly distributed, with about 50% eggs, 35% larvae, 10% pupae, and 5% adults. Their total life cycle can be as short as one year, but may be several years in ideal conditions. Female fleas can lay 5000 or more eggs over their life, allowing for phenomenal growth rates.
Egg: Fleas lay tiny white oval-shaped eggs. Eggs are laid in batches of up to 20 or so, usually on the host itself, which means that the eggs can easily roll onto the hosts resting and sleeping areas. The eggs take around two days to two weeks to hatch.
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Larva: The larva is small, pale, has bristles covering its worm-like body, lacks eyes, and has mouthparts adapted to chewing. Flea larvae emerge from the eggs to feed on any available organic material such as dead insects and vegetable matter. They are blind and avoid sunlight, keeping to dark places like sand, cracks and bedding.
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Pupa (you wrote Pupae which is plural form.) In the pupa phase, the larva is enclosed in a silken, debris-covered cocoon. Given an adequate supply of food, larvae should pupate and weave a silken cocoon within 1–2 weeks after 3 larval stages.
Adult flea: The adult flea’s diet consists solely of fresh blood. Adult fleas must feed on blood before they can become capable of reproduction. Adult fleas may remain resting in the cocoon period until they receive a signal that a host is near – vibrations (including sound), heat, and carbon dioxide are all stimuli indicating the probable presence of a host. Fleas are also known to hibernate over winter in the larval or pupae stages.
Breaking the cycle
It is important to treat all of your pets and your house on the same day. This is the only way you will get total flea control.
STEP 1 – Vacuum
Vacuum your entire house paying particular attention to corners, dark crevices, under furniture, under beds, pet beds, rugs and especially around skirting boards. The vibration from vacuuming also stimulates the fleas to emerge from their cocoons and thus they will be exposed to the insecticide that will be used. When you have finished vacuuming, dispose of the contents of your vacuum cleaner completely.
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You will be removing eggs, larva and pupa from your house thus completing step one.
STEP 2 – Spray Insecticide for your house and yard
When choosing an insecticide read the label. Look for the ingredient IGR (Insect Growth Regulator is Birth Control for Fleas. This protein works on the developing flea eggs and larvae and stops fleas from developing to maturity so they cannot lay eggs. ) Spray all carpets, rugs, floors, soft furnishings and places where your pet sleeps.
Vacuuming is very important pre insecticide spraying but not post spraying. Do not vacuum for at least two weeks after spraying, as the IGR component will have a residual effect.
Remember to remove all fish, reptiles and other living creatures from the room. This treatment may kill them.
Don’t forget about your Yard and Garden, there is no need to purchase special yard spray as you can use the same spray that you used in your house. Spray around where the pet sleeps, in crevices, gravel and sandy areas. Areas of the yard which are in sunlight should be OK as the larvae tend to avoid bright places.
Next wash all of your pets bedding and soft toys. Shake them well and hang them in the sunlight to dry
STEP 3 – Treat your pets
The latest treatments are spot on pipets that contain product in liquid form, which are much safer for both pets and humans. These are applied to the skin, usually between the shoulder blades and disperse through the skin’s oils.
Chewable Tablets for Killing Fleas on Dogs rapidly kills fleas and then goes on to prevent flea infestations for a further month. Most tablets are not recommended for use on cats.
Just like fleas, ticks are classified as parasites; they live off of the blood from their host at the hosts’ expense. Ticks are external parasites, living on the blood of mammals, birds and sometimes reptiles. They extract the blood by cutting a hole in the host’s epidermis, into which they insert their hypostome, likely keeping the blood from clotting by excreting an anticoagulant.
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Ticks fall under the arachnid family as they have eight legs, like spiders do, in their nymph and adult stage. Ticks come in two varieties. There are soft ticks (Argasidae) and hard ticks (Ixodidae). Hard ticks get their name from the large and tough shield that they carry on their backs. Soft ticks lack this shield and have a leathery ‘skin’ instead. Another difference between soft and hard ticks is the location of their mouth parts. Hard ticks have their mouth parts on the front their body, giving the impression of a ‘head’, while soft ticks carry their mouth parts on their belly.
Ticks don’t jump or fly—you can pick them up on your clothes, skin, or hair just by brushing against a leaf or blade of grass they are sitting on. Once they catch a ride on you and your pet, they will look for a place to attach—like on the backs of knees, in armpits, hair or near your hairline and behind or in ears.
Ticks need humidity in the air in order to undergo metamorphosis from egg to larva and once in the adult stage they need this humidity to keep them hydrated. Be on the lookout for these pesky creatures that lurk in moist, shaded woods, low-growing brush, dense weeds, or piles of leaves. Ticks can also be found sneaking around your neighbourhood—even in your own backyard especially in woodpiles and areas of high grass.
Ticks undergo four life cycles
The Egg: The female hard tick feeds once, lays one large batch of eggs sometimes numbering in the thousands, and dies. Most of the soft ticks engorge with blood several times and deposit about 20 to 50 eggs in a batch after each blood meal. Eggs hatch in two weeks to several months, depending upon temperature, humidity and other environmental factors.
The Larva: The larvae, or “seed ticks,” have only six legs, and the sexes are indistinguishable. Their chances of attaching to a host are slim, sometimes resulting in prolonged fasts. Despite tolerance to starvation, a very high percentage of larva die. After a blood meal, the engorged larvae usually drop to the soil and moult to the eight-legged nymph stage
The Nymph: The nymph has eight legs like the adult but has no genital opening. Hard ticks have only one nymphal stage, the nymph becoming an adult after moulting. Soft ticks may have several nymphal stages.
The Adult: Typically, the nymph moults after engorgement and becomes an adult. The sex of a tick is then distinguishable at this stage between the male and female hard / soft tick.
Most ticks do not carry diseases, and most tick bites do not cause serious health problems. But it is important to remove a tick as soon as you find it. Removing the tick completely may help you avoid diseases such as Lyme disease that the tick may pass on during feeding or a skin infection where it bit you.
When you return home from areas where ticks might live, carefully examine your skin and scalp for ticks. Check your pets, too.
When finding a tick on you or your pet, Veterinarians advise that you stay calm and don’t rush it. Moving too fast when removing a tick could potentially create more problems, both for your pet and for you.
Step 1 – Confinement
Throwing a tick in the trash or flushing it down the toilet will not kill it, and it’s actually best to hold on to it for a while for veterinary testing in case your pet falls ill from the bite. Be ready with a screw-top jar containing some rubbing alcohol.
Step 2 -Gloves
Put on latex or rubber gloves so you’ll never have direct contact with the tick or your pet’s bite area. Ticks can carry infective agents that may enter your bloodstream through breaks in your skin or through mucous membranes (if you touch your eyes, nostrils or mouth).
Step 3 -Partner up
You don’t want your pet squirming away before you’re finished, so if possible, have a helper on hand to distract, soothe or hold her still.
Step 4 – The removal
Treat the bite area with rubbing alcohol and, using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the animal’s skin as possible. Pull straight upwards with steady, even pressure. Place the tick in your jar. Do not twist or jerk the tick! This may leave the mouth-parts embedded in your pet, or cause the tick to regurgitate infective fluids. Do not squeeze or crush the body of the tick, because its fluids (saliva and gut contents) may contain infective organisms.
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Step 5 -All that remains
Sometimes, in spite of doing everything right, a tick’s mouth-parts will get left behind in your pet’s skin. If the area doesn’t appear red or inflamed, the best thing to do is to disinfect it and not to try to take the mouth-parts out. A warm compress to the area might help the body expel them, but do not go at it with tweezers.
Step 6 -Squeaky clean
Thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water (even though you were wearing gloves). Sterilize your tweezers with alcohol or by carefully running them over a flame.
Step 7- Watch dog
It is extremely important for you as an owner to keep an eye on your pet after the removal of the tick. The bite area may start showing signs of localized infection. The symptoms of most tick-borne diseases include fever and lethargy, though some can also cause weakness, lameness, joint swelling and/or anaemia. 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. . If the area is already red and inflamed, or becomes so later, please bring your pet to your nearest TAH branch with your jarred tick so your veterinarian can evaluate and start treatment.
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Speak to your TAH veterinarian about the best products available to help you with the above steps in stopping the flea & Tick cycle!