If you’re a new pet owner, the list of potential risks and hazards for your dog or cat can seem never-ending. Topping that list are the two most common external parasites found on household pets: fleas and ticks.
You probably already know that both fleas and ticks are known to bite dogs and cats, sometimes causing extreme discomfort and itching (especially with fleas). But did you know that these parasites can carry diseases that can have long-lasting effects on your pet’s health?
Pet owners must understand the risks of fleas and ticks because then you can take measures to protect your dog or cat. Keep reading to learn about the risks posed by these parasites and what you can do to keep your pet safe.
Fleas are the #1 culprit when it comes to external parasites on dogs and cats. These tiny bugs feed on your pets and are content to stay there throughout their entire life. Granted, the average lifespan of a flea isn’t long (a few months, at most), but when you consider that a female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day, it’s easy to see why flea infestations quickly get out of hand.
Flea bites are very itchy, leading to discomfort and stress for your pet. The excessive scratching, biting, or licking of bite sites can cause additional skin irritation or loss of fur. But the dangers of fleas don’t stop there.
Fleas can cause many other health problems in pets, including:
- Bartonellosis (Cat-Scratch Disease)
- Rickettsial Diseases
- Yersiniosis (Plague)
- Mycoplasma Infection
In extreme cases, a flea infestation can also lead to anemia in dogs and cats.
Ticks may not seem as prevalent as fleas because they don’t reproduce as quickly, and you typically don’t hear of a “tick infestation” in the house. But that doesn’t make these pests any less dangerous.
The most common tick species in the United States are the American dog tick, black-legged tick, brown dog tick, Gulf Coast tick, and Lone Star tick. Ticks are known to transmit several potentially deadly diseases, including:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
Most tick-borne diseases can have devastating impacts on your cat or dog. Common symptoms include lethargy, anorexia, fever, joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes.
Which Are Worse: Fleas or Ticks?
Neither of these parasites is a welcome sight on your pet. In addition to the diseases mentioned above, fleas and ticks can transmit parasitic worms that cause heartworm disease. But which one is more dangerous?
Overall, ticks pose a more dangerous threat to your pet. This is mainly due to the severity of the illnesses they transmit. While flea infestations can be deadly to pets in extreme cases, that’s not usually the case. Tick-borne diseases, though, can have much more deadly impacts.
Protect Your Pets Against Parasites
The good news is that you can take steps to protect your pet from fleas and ticks. As a new pet owner, you should start your pet on regular flea and tick prevention. Talk with your veterinarian to determine which flea and tick treatments are best for your animal.
You should also check your pet regularly for fleas and ticks and educate yourself on the signs of any related illnesses. If your dog or cat begins to exhibit heartworm symptoms or any other signs of disease, reach out to your vet immediately.
Finally, do what you can to keep fleas and ticks off your pet in the first place. Avoid areas where ticks are common and follow these pest control techniques to keep fleas and ticks away from your home.