Beat the Itch: A Guide to Dealing with Ticks and Fleas

Ticks and fleas are a well-known problem for pet owners, and they’re particularly common in cats and dogs. Their furry coats are the perfect environment for these pesky creatures, which can cause a range of health problems, from allergic reactions to tick-borne illnesses.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to deal with ticks and fleas. From the warning signs to look out for, to important treatments and preventions, here at Asda Money we’ve put together our top tips for cat and dog owners.

What are Fleas?

  • Fleas are external parasites that can have severe health impacts on cats and dogs.
  • There are over 2000 species of fleas, but one of the most common types found in cats and dogs is called the Ctenocephalides felis (also known as the Cat flea).
  • Along with causing lots of irritation for your furry friends, fleas can sometimes cause a bad allergic reaction known as “Flea Allergy Dermatitis” (FAD), which can affect their mental and physical wellbeing.
  • In extreme cases, fleas can also transmit parasites to humans, including tapeworm and a bacterial infection known as “cat scratch fever”.
  • If fleas and ticks go untreated they can cause significant damage to your pet’s skin, and secondary bacterial or fungal infections.

What are Ticks?

  • Ticks are small members of the arachnid family, which includes species such as spiders and mites.
  • Ticks are usually oval shaped and flat. They look for hosts to latch onto (e.g. your pet), then feast on them, which is what causes the itching.
  • Along with causing itching and irritation, ticks can also carry serious diseases, which can occasionally be passed onto humans in extreme cases. For example, Lyme disease is a potentially devastating condition, which is caused by bacteria and can affect both muscle and nerve cells. If you suspect your pet has Lyme disease, it’s essential to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.
  • Dogs are more likely to be affected by ticks than cats. This is because they’re often found in grassy areas such as parks and gardens, as well as kennels. Also, tick infested cats are much more likely to get rid of the ticks themselves because of their self-grooming behavior. However, it’s still important to check them regularly.
  • There are four stages to a tick’s life-cycle: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Some ticks can complete their entire lifecycle on a cat or dog’s skin.

Warning Signs to Look Out For

  • Old, sick and young animals are most at risk from ticks and fleas.
  • Look out for your cat or dog showing any unusual amounts of itching, scratching, grooming or chewing of the skin. Also check for any inflamed areas, unusual patches or hair loss that isn’t normal for them.
  • Fleas can often be physically visible on your pet’s skin, so separate their fur to have a look, especially in creases such as behind their ears.
  • Ticks can usually be felt under the hair coat of your cat or dog, so it’s good to try and check them for any bumps when you’re grooming/brushing them or simply giving them a fuss.
  • Along with itching and irritation, ticks can also cause fever, weakness, loss of appetite and lameness in your pet. Although these symptoms can also mean many other things, it’s a good idea to check for ticks too.
  • Some types of flea and tick cannot be seen, felt or detected without veterinary expertise, so if your pet is showing any signs or symptoms it’s best to get them checked over.

Treatments and Safe Ways to Remove Ticks and Fleas

  • Many treatments are safe, affordable and effective. They can vary though, so it’s always recommended to check with your vet before applying treatment to your pet.
  • The most common treatment is a liquid medication applied directly to the skin, usually between the shoulder blades or the back of the neck.
  • Other treatments include monthly flea control products or a flea collar.
  • If you find a single tick on your pet, it’s possible to remove this yourself. Grip the tick with a pair of tweezers or a tick remover for a short time until it releases the hold it has on your pet. Never remove a tick with your hands, as this is not only ineffective, but the squeezing may cause bacteria and infectious material to spread more.
  • Once you have removed a tick, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and clean the bite area, along with disinfecting the tweezers too.
  • Always ask your vet for assistance if you’ve had no experience or are unsure of how to deal with ticks and fleas, they will be happy to help.
  • Don’t mix up your treatment, as they contain different levels of toxins. Treatments for dogs and cats can differ too, so check you’re using the right one with your vet.
  • Treatments vary depending on the life cycle of the flea or tick. Some treatments only target adult fleas, whereas others target unhatched flea eggs and larvae.
  • A flea comb can be used to tightly brush through your pet’s fur coat. Ensure you dispose of any fall out or dirt in a wet paper towel. If there are any little dark or red specks visible on the paper towel, this is a strong indication that your pet has fleas.
  • If ticks or fleas are established, all your other pets at home are at risk, so they will all need to be checked too.


Video sourced from Lawn Vets Swindon 

Vaccines

  • There are no official vaccines available to protect pets from fleas or ticks. This is because an infestation of fleas and ticks begins at the fur coat and top layer of your pet’s skin, so internal vaccines would be ineffective.
  • However, there are several products that require monthly applications, which can help prevent pets from parasites, fleas and ticks.
  • Treatment in the form of liquid droplets, sprays, and tablets are available for both cats and dogs. These are sold in vets, pet shops and online, but we always recommend checking with your vet first.
  • Flea sprays are also a good form of prevention, which can be used around your house and on your pets bedding. These don’t just treat your pet, but the whole home.
  • Home application treatment prices vary depending on dosage, application type and quality, but tend to range from £5.00 - £20.00.

Preventing Ticks and Fleas from Coming into Your Home

  • Fleas and ticks can be found in many different environments that your pet is likely to be exposed to, so it’s hard to completely avoid them.
  • However, by regularly cutting the grass in your garden, and keeping plants and bushes cut back, you can decrease the likelihood of finding large numbers of fleas and ticks there. Also, remember to always clear up leaf litter and grass cuttings.
  • In extreme cases, gardens can be treated with pesticide to reduce flea and tick numbers.
  • As well as taking care of the outside environment, you can protect your house from ticks and fleas too. Hoover regularly, and throw away old rugs, carpets and pet bedding.

Although there’s a lot to remember when it comes to ticks and fleas, they generally are very treatable. Always ask your vet for advice if you’re worried or unsure about anything, and if your pet shows any of the more severe symptoms, try and get them to the vet as soon as possible.

The more serious problems such as Lyme disease are fairly rare, but it’s especially important to ensure you have pet insurance, just in case the unexpected does happen. Vet’s fees can soon start to add up, and this way you’re covered at a time that can be very stressful.

Asda Money Pet Insurance has several levels of cover available, and our Multi Pet option is ideal if you have more than one pet. We also offer a 24-hour vet helpline, which is great if you need some quick advice. If you have any questions about any of our policies, then feel free to call us on 0800 181 4904 and we’ll be happy to help.

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