• How do they enter the house?
Infestations in houses can explode to very high levels quickly. Typically, a few ticks are brought into the house or kennel, often on a dog which has been away from home. The early stages of the infestation.
• Why should I worry about fleas?
Since fleas can be carriers of worms and diseases, keeping your pet flea-free helps to keep it healthy. In addition, many pets and people are allergic to flea-bites..
• Preventive measures
Conventional wisdom and older studies that studied rat fleas suggest that fleas spend only part of their time on your pet; this is not true. There are different varieties of fleas, and the primary flea infesting dogs and cats in North America and large areas of Europe is the cat flea (yes on dogs, too). This flea, not as well studied as the rat flea actually spends all of its adult life on the host under normal conditions. Eggs are laid on the host and dropped off into the environment. Thus you can often find eggs wherever your pets spend time: on their bedding, all over the house, in the backyard.
A good preventive method is to put down towels everywhere your pet normally lies and then wash those towels once a week. Deposited flea eggs are therefore cleaned out regularly. Regular vacuuming and emptying of the vacuum bag also helps, independently of any method or methods you choose to do, since that eliminates or reduces food sources for the larvae.
• What is the Lifecycle of fleas?
You must keep in mind the life cycle of the flea.
From egg to larva to adult passes between three to six weeks: to get rid of fleas in your house, you must break this cycle. As a practical matter, this means you will almost certainly have to repeat your efforts in several weeks to catch the fleas from the larvae that didn't get destroyed the first time around. This is also why it is important to address the problem of the eggs and larvae as well as the adult fleas.
After taking a blood meal, fleas either lay eggs on your pet or in its surrounding environment. Eggs on your pet are often shed onto its bedding or into the carpet. A pair of fleas may produce 20,000 fleas in 3 months. Eggs hatch after 2-12 days into larvae that feed in the environment -- generally on digested blood from adult fleas and other food matter in their environment. The food required at this stage is microscopic, and even clean carpets often offer plenty of food to the larvae. The larvae are little wiggles about 3-4 millimeters long, you may see some if you inspect your pet's bedding carefully. Larvae molt twice within 2-200 days and the older larvae spin a cocoon in which they remain for one week to one year. When in this cocoon stage the young flea is invulnerable to any kind of insecticide and to low, even freezing, temperatures. Only sufficient warmth and the presence of a host can cause them to emerge. This long cocooning period explains why fleas are so difficult to eradicate.
• What about the Flea collars?
Flea collars aren't effective and may even be bad for your pet's health. Some of the herbal ones smell nice and that's about it.
Ultrasonic and electronic flea collars are not known to work.
• How can I tell if my pet has fleas?
To check if your pet has fleas, part its hair and look for:
- - Small bits of brown "dust," attached to the fur itself. The fleas excrete digested blood. See if the dust dissolves into a red liquid upon contact with a wet paper towel.
- - Skin Irritation: flea bites or scratching and biting may leave red, irritated skin, and even bald patches in bad cases.
- - Small, fast moving brown shapes are fleas.
- - Or, use a flea comb and see what you get. You may also see "flea dust," fleas, or even larvae on your pet's bedding
- - Dried blood in its ears may indicate ear mites and you should consult your vet to find out what the problem is.
• How to choose your methods
There are several ways to kill or discourage fleas. Some are synthetic chemicals, some are considered "natural", and both work with varying degrees. No method is 100% effective and you will almost always have to combine several approaches to get the results you want. Some methods are applicable for indoor pets, but useless for indoor/outdoor pets. You need to choose the set of approaches that best addresses your situation.
Keep in mind that there are regional differences among fleas: what works well in one area may not work well in other areas. You should consult a LOCAL vet, vet tech, or dog groomer to see what is known to be effective in your area. If you think you're getting biased opinions, ask several people and see what they concur on. Don't rely on the products available at your local store; there are too many that are just distributed nationally.
Finally, you may find that you need to switch your approaches around from year to year. If you use the same product several years in a row, you may find the effectiveness to have lessened. Additionally, some years are worse than others, depending on the previous winter, and you may need to strike earlier with stronger methods some years or relax a bit with milder methods another year.
• Is necessary to comb my pet?
Flea combs with fine teeth that snag fleas are commercially available. It is helpful to have a small dish of ammonia-laced water on hand to kill the fleas on the comb rather than trying to nail each one by hand. Alternatively, mix a few drops of detergent into the dish of water so that there is no surface tension and fleas dropped into the treated water will drown. Use a metal comb; the plastic ones are too flexible and allow the fleas to escape.
You will typically find the most fleas along your pet's back, groin area, and at the base of the tail. This by itself will never rid your pet from fleas since flea larvae may also be in bedding, furniture and carpet. It is, however, useful to keep an eye on the flea population, and if used as a preventive measure, this method can keep them in check.
If you have a major infestation, though, you will have to get rid of most of the fleas before you can use just a comb on your pet.
• What are Ticks?
Ticks are in the phylum of animals called Arthropoda (jointed appendage). This phylum is the largest in the animal kingdom. There are over 850 different species of ticks, and they parasitize every class of terrestrial vertebrate animal, including amphibians.
Ticks are small rounded arachnids that cling to one spot and do not move. They insert their head under the skin and engorge themselves on the blood. Ticks carry disease, which means that you should have yourself or your pets checked after you find ticks.
On the one hand, ticks are a little easier to deal with since they remain outdoors, and do not infest houses the way fleas do; on the other hand, they carry more dangerous diseases and are harder to find.
• What kinds of Ticks exist?
There are two basic types of ticks. Soft ticks, the argasids, are distinguished by their soft, leathery cuticle and lack of scutum. They can be recognized easily by their subterminal mouthparts that are on the underside of the tick. Soft ticks when engorged with blood blow up like a balloon. Soft ticks are fast feeders, being able to tank up in a matter of hours. Hard ticks, the Ixodids, have a hard plate on the dorsal surface and have terminal mouthparts. When attaching, a tick will slice open the skin with the mouthparts and then attach itself. They also secrete a cement that hardens and holds the tick onto the host. Hard ticks are slow feeders, taking several days to finish their bloodmeal.
During feeding a tick may extract up to 8 ml of blood, they can take 100X their body weight in blood. Interestingly, they concentrate the blood during feeding and will return much of the water to the host while losing some by transpiration through the cuticle.
• How to remove a Tick?
When you find a tick, use tweezers to pick up the body and pull s-l-o-w-l-y and gently, and the mouthparts will release. You should see a small crater in your dog's skin, if you see what looks like black lines, you've left the head of the tick in. At this point, if your dog is mellow enough, you should try and pick it out. Otherwise, you may need to take your pet to the vet’s, as the head parts will lead to an infection.
Ticks carry a lot of rickettsial diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so you should wash your hands thoroughly with soap after handling a tick. Some veterinarians will put on gloves, smear one finger with a bit of mineral oil and massage the protruding part of the tick for a minute or so. The tick will back out.
- - Don't use any of the folklore remedies (matches, cigarettes, pins, gasoline) that will irritate the tick. They increase the likelihood that the tick will "spit up" in you, which increases the risk of disease.
- - Oil is not effective because the breathing requirements of the tick are so small it could last hours covered with oil.
- - The mouthpiece is barbed rather than spiralled, so trying to rotate the tick out doesn't provide any advantage.
- - The preferred method is to use special tweezers designed for that purpose, and pull straight out.
Lyme disease is usually carried by tiny deer ticks (two other kinds of ticks have also been identified as carriers), which are the size of a pinhead. You must search yourself or your pet over very carefully to find this kind of ticks.
• What do Ticks produce?
Ticks are the most important arthropod in transmitting diseases to domestic animals and run a close second to mosquitoes in arthropod borne human diseases. They transmit a greater variety of infectious agents than any other type of arthropod. Ticks can cause disease and illness directly. They are responsible for anemia due to blood loss, dermatosis due to salivary secretions, and ascending tick paralysis due to neurotoxins in the salivary secretions. They also can be the vector of other diseases.
• What is the lifecycle of Ticks?
All ticks have four life cycle stages. Adult ticks produce eggs. A female tick can produce up to 20,000 eggs. Mating usually occurs on a host, after which the female must have a blood meal in order for the eggs to develop. Ixodid ticks are unusual in that mating does not occur on the host. The eggs are laid in the soil or leaf litter after the female drops off the host. These eggs hatch into a stage known as the larva. The larva is the smallest stage and can be recognized by having only 3 pairs of legs. These "seed ticks" are produced in great numbers. They must find a host and take a blood meal in order to molt to the next stage called the nymph. If the nymph can feed on a host, it will develop into the adult tick.
Ticks vary greatly in how long this cycle takes and the number of hosts involved. Some ticks are one-host ticks; the entire cycle occurs on that one host. Others use two hosts, some three and some of the soft ticks are multi-host ticks.
Ticks require high humidity and moderate temperature. Juvenile ticks usually live in the soil or at ground level. They will then climb up onto a blade of grass or the leaf of a plant to await a potential host. They will sense the presence of a host and begin the questing behavior, standing up and waving their front legs.
They are able to sense a vibration, a shadow, a change in CO2 level, or temperature change. When unsuccessful in their "quest" they become dehydrated and will climb back down the plant to the ground to become rehydrated. Then back up the plant, etc., until they are successful or they die. Some ticks have been known to live for over 20 years and they can live for a very long time without food. Their favored habitat is old field-forest eco zone.
One way to cut down the number of ticks is to keep the area mowed.