Pesky Parasites......

March 28, 2019

Fleas, Ticks and Worms…..oh my!

As we welcome the warmer weather of spring, it is also a time when veterinarians all over the country see an increase in parasites, which can cause health issues for our furry friends. So I thought now would be a good opportunity to share some health tidbits on what to be on the lookout for as well as what preventative measures can be taken to protect your pet, as well as what you can do should they become infected. 


Just one flea on your pet can cause a huge problem. A single flea can lay up to 50 eggs in one day! We can only see adult fleas so it can be difficult to assess the infestation. 

Understanding the four stages of the flea life cycle, how long fleas live and what fleas look like can help you stop the invasion. 



Stage 1: Flea eggs

One flea can lay up to 50 eggs in one day, which will fall off your dog anywhere he goes. As your dog moves around, flea eggs disperse into the surroundings including carpet, bedding and the backyard. 

Stage 2: Flea larvae

Flea larvae hatch from the eggs in one to ten days.  

Stage 3: Flea pupae

Larvae turn into pupae. They usually emerge as adult fleas one to two weeks later, but can stay in their cocoons for weeks or months waiting for a host, like your dog, to live on. This is why some people experience flea infestations and flea bites after returning from vacation or moving into a house. If a flea cannot find a dog or cat to jump on, it is not uncommon for them to jump on and bite people.

Stage 4: Flea adults

Full‐grown fleas are the ones you normally see, and they begin biting almost immediately after getting onto your dog.  The picture below shows flea dirt. In order to distinguish flea dirt from regular dirt, you can wet the black spots and if they turn red, you've got fleas!




Why should you prevent or treat fleas? 

1. Flea allergy dermatitis

Many dogs suffer from flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), an allergic condition caused by flea bites. .

When fleas bite, substances in their saliva can enter your dog’s skin and trigger an immune response. This can cause intense skin irritation and itchiness that extends well beyond the location of the bites, resulting in hair loss and skin infections that can make the problem even worse. Dogs with FAD will continue to experience these miserable symptoms until the fleas are controlled.

2. Tapeworms

While chewing at irritated skin from flea bites or even while licking a leg to remove dirt, dogs and cats can swallow fleas. If those ingested fleas happen to be infected with tapeworms, there is a good chance they will become infected. If your pet is infected with tapeworms, you may see little white grains of rice around their anus, which are actually packets of tapeworm eggs! 

 3. Anemia

This is more common in small puppies or kittens.  If a large number of fleas bite and take blood meals your pet can develop anemia. This is a serious medical condition that must be promptly addressed through veterinary care. 



Ticks are eight-legged parasites that have highly developed mouthparts that can pierce through the skin of your pet and feed on their blood. Ticks feed on blood in order to survive and produce eggs. After attaching and feeding on blood, they can increase in size and fully fed females will be round and often the size of a pea. 


Ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They will cling to tall grass, brush and shrubs, usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls.

Ticks have been increasing in number and expanding across the country over the past few years.  This is mainly due to warmer temperatures and the dispersion of ticks on animal hosts like mice, raccoons, deer, etc. With the expansion of ticks, there has also been an increase in reported cases of tick-borne diseases in dogs, such as lyme, ehrlichia and anaplasmosis.  While we have a vaccine for lyme disease, we feel that tick prevention is the key.  If you should find a tick on your pet, do not try to take it off without a handy tick twister or direction from your veterinarian. 


Intestinal parasites

The most common intestinal parasites that we diagnose are roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, and giardia. 

We often stress the importance of repetitive deworming in puppies and kittens in the first months because they may be infected before birth or by ingesting infected milk. Many dogs and cats do not show symptoms of intestinal parasites which makes deworming every 3-4 months of vital importance. Some intestinal parasites can pose a significant risk to humans, especially children. Below is an adult roundworm. 




If you should have any questions about flea and tick prevention or deworming please call us or attend our open house on April 13th from 11am -2 pm where special guest Darren McGinty from Bayer Animal Health can teach you about life cycles as well as treatment and prevention of these nasty bugs!


Come, Sit, Stay, Heal at RainTree Veterinary Hospital