What Every Pet Owner Should Know About Preventing Fleas and Ticks

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The thought of insects crawling on your skin and living off your blood probably, well, makes your skin crawl. Yet, too often as pet owners, we allow fleas and ticks to treat our pets like bed-and-breakfasts. And it is only after these pests make themselves at home that we might realize showing them the door can be difficult, expensive and painfully slow.

Fleas and ticks aren’t just irritating and distasteful; they can lead to medical problems. Flea allergies can cause severe itching and skin damage; fleas can also carry the causative agents of cat-scratch disease, while ticks carry the organisms that can lead to debilitating illnesses like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. So it’s crucial to continuously and effectively prevent infestations of these parasites for the health and safety of our pets, our families and ourselves. 

Fleas: The Prolific, Perplexing Parasite

Consider the life cycle of the common flea: The average female can lay 40 to 50 eggs daily. The eggs develop into maggot-like larvae and progress to a cocoon stage called pupae. These pupae wait several weeks to months for the ideal temperature and humidity to mature into adult fleas. That single adult flea you find on your pet represents about 5 percent of the total flea problem in your home; eggs, larvae, and pupae comprise the rest. Your pet — and your home — can be infested before a single flea is found. And finding them can be tough, especially on cats, because of their constant grooming. That’s why a one-time treatment for fleas isn’t usually enough.

Pet owners often discover a flea problem because of a pet’s severe itching, which sometimes is due to flea allergy dermatitis — a sensitization to the flea’s saliva when it draws a blood meal. No pet is safe from fleas and their bites, but not all pets are hypersensitive to them. This means severe infestations can occur without your dog or cat showing any obvious discomfort. Therefore, it’s best to use preventive tactics to help keep fleas from infesting your pet and home in the first place.

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