Spotting the Difference Between Fleas and Ticks

As much as we appreciate all creatures, it’s hard to hold affection for fleas and ticks! When the Australian weather warms up and both our pets and ourselves venture more into the great outdoors, these pesky little parasites can latch onto our pets and infiltrate our homes.

Tiny Yet Troublesome

Fleas, even as adults, are minuscule creatures, no bigger than a few millimetres long, but their influence is far from small! Dogs and cats can scratch, lick, or chew their skin raw dealing with the itch. Beyond being a bothersome nuisance, fleas and ticks can also be the carriers of numerous diseases, including zoonoses, diseases transmitted between animals and humans.

The list of harmful conditions that fleas and ticks can transmit is extensive. Fleas can cause tapeworm infestations, anaemia, and flea allergy dermatitis, while ticks are responsible for conditions like Anaplasmosis. The best way to avoid such diseases for all household members is to ensure fleas and ticks stay away from your pets and home!


Prevention is Better Than Cure!

Ensuring safe and effective flea and tick prevention for your dogs and cats is vital to maintaining the health of everyone in your family. There are numerous approaches to effective parasite prevention, from collars to topical solutions to oral chews; the key is to find a product suitable for your specific pet and use it consistently.

Flea collars might appear as a simple and economical option for your pet, yet their efficacy varies. And pesticide residue levels on your pet’s fur may be high enough to pose health concerns for other family members. If you have children in the house, you might want to consider a different form of flea and tick prevention. One of the newer flea and tick collars introduced in the market is the Seresto collar. This collar kills and repels fleas and ticks for up to 8 months, a helpful option if you often forget your pet’s monthly flea and tick treatment.

Topical (on-the-skin) preventatives have been around for decades and include products like Frontline or Advantage, applied as a small amount of liquid between your pet’s shoulder blades, out of reach for licking. The treatment is stored in your pet’s oil glands and protects for 30 days. Your pet can be handled and hugged as soon as the application site is dry, but wait at least 2 days before bathing or swimming.

Newer advancements in flea and tick prevention include monthly oral preventatives like NexGard or Bravecto, chewable ‘treats’ your dog will happily take. These prescription-only beef-flavoured or pork-flavoured chews are an easy alternative to topical treatments, especially in dogs with thick coats where collars and topical treatments may not be as effective. A benefit of these oral preventatives is that your dog doesn’t need to wait to have a bath or swim! These chews are also a great choice for households with children or multiple pets. Most of these preventatives depend on weight and age; check with your local vet to ensure you’re choosing an appropriate product for your dog or cat!


What About Cats?

You might wonder about the need for flea and tick prevention if you have an indoor-only cat. However, it’s not uncommon for indoor cats to get fleas or ticks; these pests can hop onto you or your dog and find their way to your indoor cat easily. Successful flea and tick prevention must include all pets in the home!


Pyrethrins and pyrethroids can be found in many over-the-counter flea shampoos, flea collars, topical preventatives, and garden insecticides. However, these can be problematic for cats, who are sensitive to these products. A canine pyrethrin/pyrethroid product should never be used on a cat. Symptoms like drooling, vomiting, tremors, seizures, or difficulty breathing may all be signs of pyrethrin toxicity in your cat. If you have a cat, the safest approach to flea and tick prevention is to avoid these products and choose a different product for all pets in the house.


Numerous safer prescription and over-the-counter flea and tick preventatives for cats are available in the market. These include the Seresto for Cats collar and Revolution, a topical prescription medication that also prevents heartworm disease and controls intestinal parasites and ear mites.


More Information

Preventing fleas and ticks is the easiest and safest way to ensure the health of your pet and your household. Consider steps like checking yourself and your pets immediately after a walk to ensure no insects have hitched a ride into your home. And reach out to your local vet to discuss which flea and tick preventative is right for your pet!


Remember, flea and tick prevention is typically given to pets at least once a month, especially during warmer months when these pests are more active. Consult with your vet to determine the safest and most effective flea and tick prevention product based on your pet’s individual needs and circumstances. Some flea and tick prevention products require a vet prescription, to ensure the treatment’s effectiveness and safety for your pet.


Stay proactive, and protect your pets against these tiny yet troublesome pests!


Spotting the Difference Between Fleas and Ticks


As a pet owner, distinguishing between fleas and ticks can be challenging. Both are notorious parasites that can cause severe discomfort and potential health issues for your pet. Understanding the difference between these two pests is vital in identifying, treating, and preventing infestations.


First, you might be wondering what fleas and ticks look like. In general, ticks are larger than fleas. Fleas are tiny creatures, about 1/8th of an inch long, and can be hard to spot with the naked eye. They are wingless and can appear like specks of pepper on your pet’s skin or fur. On the other hand, ticks are larger and more easily visible. They have flattened, dark-coloured bodies.


Symptoms and Warning Signs of Flea Infestations:

  • Intense itching and scratching
  • Biting or chewing at the skin
  • Hair loss due to excessive biting or scratching
  • Scabs or red, irritated skin
  • Flea “droppings” or “dirt” which are specks of dried blood


Symptoms and Warning Signs of Tick Infestations:

  • Wobbling or limping
  • Weakness or decreased energy
  • Loss of appetite, vomiting
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Shaking the head or scratching at the ears


Identifying Fleas vs. Ticks in Cats:

Fleas are far more common in cats, but ticks can still pose a threat. Even indoor cats can be exposed to fleas and ticks brought in by other pets or humans. While there are many types of ticks, only a handful can cause illnesses in cats.


Identifying Fleas vs. Ticks in Dogs:

Fleas and ticks can both feed on dogs, causing various symptoms. Tick-borne diseases can be serious, so if your vet suspects your dog has been bitten by a tick, they might recommend blood work to confirm the diagnosis.


Prevention of Fleas and Ticks:

As a pet parent, preventing flea and tick infestations is vital. There are several methods for flea and tick prevention, including flea collars, topical treatments, and oral preventatives. Your vet can help you determine the best method for your pet. Regular pet wellness exams also contribute to your pet’s preventative care plan and long-term health.


During warmer months, daily visual checks for fleas and ticks on your pet are advisable.


Frequently Asked Questions:


Why does my indoor cat keep getting fleas?

Indoor cats can get fleas from other pets in the home, from humans who may bring in fleas on their clothing or shoes, or from pests like mice or rats. Despite their lower risk, indoor cats can still be exposed to fleas.


How long does it take to get rid of fleas and ticks on cats and dogs?

A: The duration depends on the type of treatment. Most oral and topical medications work within 24 to 48 hours, but it often requires several months of consistent treatment to completely eradicate fleas. Alongside treatment, environmental measures like regular laundering and vacuuming are necessary.


What kills ticks on cats instantly?

Topical treatments can kill ticks instantly upon contact with the cat’s skin or fur. However, remember to use products that are safe for cats, as they can be sensitive to certain ingredients.


If you’re interested in learning more about preventing flea and tick infestations or need further assistance in identifying these pests, consult with your vet. Regular vet check-ups and preventative measures can help ensure your pet’s long-term health and happiness.