An older golden retriever scratching itselfNature’s clock wakes up persistent parasites every spring, and the blood-sucking population multiplies non-stop throughout the warm summer months. However, the fast-approaching autumnal equinox is not the insurance your pet needs to avoid the fate of a parasite’s blood meal. Fleas and ticks can lie dormant throughout the winter, wake up after the last frost, and wreak havoc on a myriad of mammalia.

No matter the season, your pet is always at risk for parasites. Let’s discuss the basic (not to mention disconcerting) truths about fleas and ticks.

Something Truly Monstrous

There are over a dozen different types of ticks in Illinois, but only a few are commonly seen by people out and about. The American dog tick, lone star tick, blacklegged (deer) tick, brown dog tick, and winter tick round out the usual suspects and – depending on what stage of the lifecycle – sizes vary from the size of a pinhead to a corn kernel.

As part of the arachnid family, ticks hang out on leaves, grass, or brush and attach to prey innocently moving by. Not really picky about who may supply the next blood meal, ticks employ barbed hooks on the front legs, a mouth with an outside cutting edge to initiate the bite, and a tube that anchors to the host and serves as a straw.

Forthcoming Fleas

Fleas are the prime harbinger of allergic dermatitis in cats and dogs which can result in crazed scratching, licking, and – in extreme cases – raw, infected hotspots. Anemia, tapeworms, and general misery can also dovetail with a flea infestation, so it’s best to prevent it.

Preventive products, such as Nexgard for dogs, are very effective at keeping fleas on the run (or springing jump, as it were). Please allow us to help you find the right product for your pet, as some medications can be dangerous if not used for a specific animal type.

If you face an infestation, you must launder all of your pet’s bedding, vacuum his or her hang out zones repeatedly, apply approved topical shampoos or rinses, and possibly administer oral antihistamines if dermatitis is an issue for your pet. Left untreated, your pet’s flea problem can painfully develop into different infections.

Dangers Of Fleas and Ticks

Both fleas and ticks are responsible for the spread of serious disease, and constant vigilance is necessary to protect you and your pet.

A tick bite can cause both humans and pets to get sick with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease.

It can take anywhere between 48-72 hours for Lyme disease to be fully transmitted from an infected tick to the host, so it’s crucial to inspect your pet’s coat, skin, paws, and ears for any offender. Symptoms and effects of Lyme disease can include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Limping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Heart and nervous system damage
  • Kidney inflammation

We may recommend the canine Lyme disease vaccine if your dog’s lifestyle includes time in the woods, and many owners brush up on the proper methods for effective tick removal.

Fleas are known to carry and spread Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that caused the Black Plague during the Middle Ages. Although treatable with antibiotics, pet owners should be aware that it still exists today, and can cause significant illness or even death.

Please! No Fleas and Ticks!

No matter how you look at parasites, fleas and ticks are unquestionably bad for your pet (not to mention your family and household!). The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center are here to field any questions about parasite prevention, and look forward to seeing you both soon!