Fleas and ticks are a pain in the tail. They can infest most mammals, including people, causing problems from mild irritation to death. Find out what you need to know about fleas and ticks, how to prevent them, the signs and symptoms, and what to do if you spot one.
Flea and tick prevention
Fleas are external parasites that live on the skin and feed on the blood of their host. Some animals barely register their existence, while others will bite and scratch, damaging their skin and causing an infection.
- Mammals can be allergic to fleas.
- Infestations can cause anemia.
- Fleas can infect animals with tapeworm larvae.
- Fleas can spread myxomatosis to rabbits.
- Fleas carry bacteria called bartonella henselae, which can make people very unwell.
- Fleas are prevalent all year.
- Fleas jump to get around.
- They can survive six months without a host.
Symptoms of fleas
Your pet can’t tell you they have fleas, but there are signs to look out for:
- Skin irritation and redness.
- Bald patches.
- Flea dirt.
- Visible fleas.
Remember that pets react to fleas differently, so there may not be any obvious signs. The easiest way to know if your pet has fleas is to groom them. If you see any of the signs listed above they will need treatment.
If you find fleas
Flea treatments can be applied to the skin, or be an oral chew or tablet. Flea collars are an effective way of killing the fleas on your pet, but not the ones in the surrounding environment. Here are some top tips for getting rid of fleas and keeping your pet healthy.
- Treat all your pets and your home.
- Vacuum your home weekly and dispose of the cleaning bags.
- Wash pet bedding, kennels and enclosures weekly at a high temperature.
- Dust crevices with insecticide powder and use approved surface sprays.
- See a vet if your pet has skin damage.
- Follow all advice from your vet closely, including what products to buy.
- Do not use treatments designed for one species on another.
- There is no evidence alternative flea treatments work.
Always seek further advice from your vet if you are unsure.
- Victoria has three main species of tick – the bush tick, brown dog tick and the paralysis tick.
- Paralysis ticks secrete a toxin that causes paralysis – most tick bites are caused by this species, and it’s the most dangerous.
- Once a tick has latched onto a host, it will look for the perfect spot to feed. In pets, this is often their groin.
- Tick saliva contains anaesthetic.
- Ticks tend to be more active when it’s warm and humid.
There are many species of ticks, but the ones that cause the most problems are known as hard ticks. They have a hard flat body and elongated mouthparts with rows of backward pointing teeth.
Symptoms of ticks
If your pet could have been bitten by a tick, look out for the following symptoms:.
- Redness and swelling at the bite site.
- Loss of coordination in the hind legs.
- Verbal changes.
- Retching, coughing and vomiting.
- Excessive salivation.
- Appetite loss.
- Progressive paralysis.
- Difficulty breathing.
If venturing into bushland, check your pet for ticks. Common sites are the head, ears, mouth, toes, and groin, but check everywhere to be sure.
If you find a tick
If you find a tick, remove it gently with tweezers or your fingers. Gently pull upwards as close to the skin as possible, being very careful to not twist or jerk the tick. If your pet is showing any of the symptoms listed above, keep the tick to show your vet.