Ticks and Fleas
Quick Facts on Fleas
- Fleas are small wingless parasites (1 to 4 mm in length).
- They can jump 6 inches (15 cm) vertically and up to 13 inches (33 cm) horizontally.
- One flea may lay up to 25 eggs per day.
- Fleas can only lay eggs after taking a blood meal from their host.
- The flea life cycle (egg to larvae to pupae to adult) is completed in 18-26 days depending on the temperature.
- Fleas in the pupae stage can remain dormant for up to 9 months.
- Common symptoms of a flea infestation include biting or scratching around the tail, groin or back, or the appearance of small scabs or bumps on your pet's neck or back.
- To check whether your pet has fleas, check for flea dirt – tiny black specs found on your pet or on its favourite spots.
- Flea dirt is the adult flea's faeces which is rich in blood. If it turns red when wetted you have confirmed the presence of fleas on your pet!
- If you find fleas, you will need to treat your home and pet – ask your vet for advice.
- Flea bites may cause an allergic reaction in both pets and humans.
- Flea larvae feed on tapeworm eggs. The eggs continue to mature inside the flea. When the flea matures the pet eats the flea. The tapeworm egg, still living inside the flea, comes to maturity inside the pet's intestines where it is free to grow and reproduce.
- Flea-borne Black Death swept across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe in the fourteenth century, killing as much as a third of the world's population.
Quick Facts on Ticks
- Ticks are more closely related to spiders (arachnids) than to insects.
- There are two families of ticks. Soft ticks (Argasidae) and hard ticks (Ixodidae).
- There are 4 stages of growth in the tick – the egg, the larvae, the nymph and the adult.
- If not removed, the adult female tick will remain attached for 5-7 days sucking blood from the host. During this time she may become 4 times greater in size and 100 times greater in weight.
- The female lays as many as 3000 to 4000 eggs.
- Depending on the type of tick, the cycle from egg to adult may take months or years.
- Ticks can transmit life-threatening diseases such as tick fever (Babesiosis) and tick bite fever (Ehrlichiosis) to your dog.
- The best way to remove a tick from a person or a pet, is to grasp the tick firmly with tweezers as close as possible to where it is attached to the skin. Slowly and steadily pull the tick straight up.
Quick Facts on Biting Flies
- The stable fly (Stomoxys) closely resembles the common house fly (Musca domestica) but they are blood feeders.
- Stable flies cause considerable injury and irritation to animals and love to attack the ears and noses of dogs.
- The flies have a sharp mouth part (proboscis) for piercing the skin and drawing blood.
- Both male and female flies will bite.
- The female fly needs multiple blood meals before laying her eggs.
- Breeding mainly occurs during the spring and summer months.
- In warm weather flies complete their development (egg to larvae to pupae to adult) in a very short period, 7-14 days and produce numerous generations during one season.
- Dogs should be protected from fly attacks by using a product with fly repellant action.
Tips for Responsible Parasiticide Use
- Various products are available for the control of ticks, fleas and biting flies. Dips, powders, pour-ons, spot-ons, sprays, collars and shampoos may be used.
- Always read the product instructions carefully and follow them!
- Preferably wear gloves when applying the product to your pet.
- Always wash your hands well afterwards.
- Never use a product on a species other than the one it is registered for. Cats, birds and fish might be more susceptible to toxic effects.
- Apply the product outside your house.
- Prevent your pet from ingesting any excess product.
- Ensure that your pet is completely dry before letting it into the house after application.
- Don't sleep with your pet after treating it.
- Always store products in a cool, dry place out of reach of uninformed people, children and pets.
- Never use more than one product simultaneously if not advised to do so by your vet.
Updated: 23 January 2012