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It’s Flea and Tick Time!

September 6, 2016

With the finish of a mild winter and with warmer weather just around the corner, everyone is predicting a bumper crop of fleas and ticks.


Small, brown, and wingless, fleas can be the bane of a pet’s existence! With piercing mouth parts to siphon a blood meal, they can cause a pet to itch, scratch, and chew at itself until hair is missing and skin is raw.

When a flea pierces the skin to draw blood, a small amount of saliva is injected into the wound which works to keep the animal’s blood from coagulating. If the bitten animal is sensitive to the saliva, flea allergy dermatitis, an allergic reaction, will occur.


Symptoms may include:

  • Intense itching and scratching
  • Redness
  • Hives
  • Scaling
  • Skin reaction consisting of tiny, crusty, red bumps
  • Hair loss
  • Hot spots
  • Increased skin pigmentation
  • Bacterial infection

Flea allergy dermatitis typically involves the:

  • Lower back
  • Base of the tail
  • Area toward the back of the abdomen, flanks, and neck

In severe cases, a painful, generalized reaction involving the total body may occur, causing the need for prompt veterinary intervention.

It Only Takes One
When a client comments that their pet’s itching can’t be flea related because they haven’t seen any fleas, the following information can be shared:


  • If an animal is highly sensitive, it only takes the bite of one flea to cause intense itching and scratching
  • Fleas spend the majority of their life in the environment, not on the animal, which may explain why a flea hasn’t been seen on the pet
  • In a household with more than one animal, if one pet has fleas, it should be assumed that all of the pets have fleas
  • If one flea is found on a pet, chances are good that hundreds of fleas in various stages of development are already within the pet’s environment


Ticks have no redeeming qualities! They hang out just waiting for an opportunity to hitch a ride and cause disease. Offering clients the following tips can help them to avoid tick environments and reduce their pet’s chance for exposure:

  • Ticks are generally not found in areas with dry undergrowth, but prefer areas of brushy overgrowth that provide:
    • Humidity
    • Protection from direct sunlight
    • Shelter for host animals, including:
      • Mammals
      • Reptiles
      • Birds
      • Amphibians

Ticks play an integral part in many diseases affecting both humans and animals, for instance:

  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Rickettsiosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever

It typically takes 24 hours from the time the tick attaches for the animal to contract a tick-borne illness, which is why it is important for clients to be aware of ways to check for and remove the parasite. Common methods for tick removal include:

  • Run a masking tape roller over animals with short coats
  • Comb animal with a flea comb
  • Check:
    • Between the toes
    • Around the ears, face, mouth, tail, genitals, armpits
    • Inside the ears, and within the ear folds

Advise clients to immediately follow a method to remove any attached ticks, for example:

  • Using tweezers, grasp the tick’s head or body as close to the animal’s skin as possible
  • Pull back with a slow, steady, and straight pull
  • Once tick is removed, sealing it in a container of alcohol will kill it
  • Clean and treat the wound with antiseptic ointment
  • Wash hands

If the attached tick is removed, but its head and/or mouthparts remain embedded, an allergic reaction may occur causing redness and swelling.

Advise clients to continue to:

  1. Clean the wound site
  2. Apply antibiotic ointment
  3. Watch for signs of infection, such as redness or heat
    1. If wound becomes infected, clients should contact the veterinary office

Inform clients that there are rapid tests for tick-borne diseases, and make them aware of the disease symptoms that could surface several months after being bitten, for instance:

  1. Loss of appetite
  2. Lethargy
  3. Fever
  4. Limping
  5. Changes in gait

While weather does play a small part in reducing the number of ticks and fleas, it typically takes lengthy periods with temperatures around 10F to accomplish a winter kill of populations. Recommend that clients use year-round tick and flea preventives to remove the worry and prevent infestation!


Looking for information about flea and tick preventives? Contact your Covetrus representative at 855.724.3461.


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