Monthly Archives: May 2014

Complications of Fleas and/or Ticks

Just removing fleas or ticks from your pet does not solve the potential problems they could inflict.  All pet owners should be aware of these common complications that can and do occur: Flea allergy dermatitis. The bite of a single flea can cause havoc in a dog or a cat if they are allergic to the saliva of the flea. In fact, these allergic animals show many more symptoms of discomfort that those that are not allergic. Those that are allergic scratch themselves a lot and often break the skin, which can lead to a secondary infection. They usually have hair loss and the skin often appears red, crusty and flaky. They are very uncomfortable and can not sleep soundly. Many of these patients may not have a flea on them at the time of an examination as fleas can jump off the animal, but usually there is flea dirt (excrement) present. All it takes is one or two flea bites from a single flea to cause the problem. Flea Infestations. Non-allergic pets can have hundreds of fleas and not show any signs of discomfort or symptoms.  This creates a problem for the pet owner because the home and outside environment is usually flea infested too. Lyme Disease and Ehrlichiosis. These diseases are caused by tick species  common on the north shore of Long Island. The dog should be observed for symptoms for 6 months after the removal of ticks. These symptoms are lethargy, lameness, fever, joint swelling and sometimes lymph node swelling. Most of the time we find dogs with these diseases by routine blood tests and start treatment immediately. Of course the earlier we diagnose and treat the more successful we are. Tapeworms. Fleas are the main source of tapeworms which infect dogs and cats. They acquire these parasites when they lick and ingest fleas and flea larva on their skin. A routine stool analysis does NOT always show tapeworms as many species do not pass eggs. Sometimes there are segments of the tapeworm stuck to the skin or hair around the anus. They look like small pieces of rice. Simple deworming with an oral medication made specifically for tapeworms will eliminate the problem, but you must get rid of the source—— fleas.  Bartonellosis. This is a disease of cats caused by fleas. It is important as it causes cat-scratch disease in humans. Frequently it is in cats that show no symptoms and can only be diagnosed by a blood test. There are several other diseases fleas and ticks can transmit to humans but they are very rare in this area. Check with your veterinarian as to which products are being recommended this year. We often rotate products so the fleas and ticks do not become resistant to the chemicals.