Animal Medical Care Fleas and Ticks

Fleas are a natural reality for our pets in western Oregon as compared to eastern Oregon. Fleas require a humid climate to survive and are a year round problem in our area. The adult fleas suck blood from our dogs and cats. In puppies and kittens severe anemia can result. At a minimum fleas are a skin irritant. Dogs and cats can develop an allergy to the saliva of the flea bites leading to persistent itching from only one flea bite every 3 days. Further, ingestion of fleas often leads to tapeworms in our pets.

Female fleas can lay 30-50 eggs per day. Some of these will fall off the pets coat surviving in carpet, lawns and landscaping. After the eggs hatch, larvae emerge that live on flea droppings and flakes of skin. About a week later, they spin a cocoon to become a pupae. Pupae can survive very long periods of time. If the environmental conditions are right, pupae can develop into adults in as short as 1 week of time. The adults then soon need to take a blood meal from our pets, or people if a pet is not handy. The total flea life cycle can be as short as 12 days and up to 180 days.

Aside from the skin irritation fleas can transmit diseases such as plague and cat scratch fever.

Ticks, though less common in western Oregon, are ever present. These creatures live exclusively on the blood of animals for 3 of their 4 life stages. In our area, the most common ticks are known as deer ticks. They have the potential to transmit lyme's disease and rocky mountain spotted fever.

I believe the best control measures for fleas and ticks are monthly "spot on" products applied to the skin of the pet at the base of the skull. My personal favorites are Frontline Plus for dogs and Revolution for cats. Be cautious of some of the similarly applied "copy cat" products. We have treated many cats for permethrin toxicity from some of the "copy cat" products. Rule of thumb: Always read the label and only use on the species indicated.

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