What’s Bugging My Pet? And How To Tackle It Head-On:

What’s bugging my pet? GREAT question! It’s goggies.

So help prevent these monstrosities from your bugging your pet and follow our incredibly handy 2-point action plan.

It will help give you peace of mind about your pet’s comfort, as well as their safety from parasite-related diseases. So let’s check it out:

1. IDENTIFY

Fleas are the most common parasites bugging your pet.  Left untreated, they’ll not only make your dog or cat miserable, but can lead to infection and more serious diseases too.

Ticks also rate among the more common types of external parasites bugging your pet and are found on dogs and cats in South Africa, ESPECIALLY in the warmer spring and summer months. 

How Do I Know If My Pet Has Fleas?

The tell-tale signs are itching and scratching. Like all parasites bugging your pet, fleas depend on a host animal for their survival – in this case, your pet and his blood.

Both dogs and cats can be allergic to the protein in flea saliva and will itch or scratch as soon as they’re bitten.  Even a single flea bite can cause a pet to scratch excessively for several days.

Redness or bumps may appear on your pet’s groin or tummy, the inside of his legs or at the base of his tail. Constant itching or scratching of these areas can cause hair loss and dry skin. Left untreated, crusty lesions and infections can develop, which will need more intense treatment and management.

How to Check Your Pet for Fleas: 

Check the brush: Make it a habit to check your pet’s comb or brush when grooming. Adult fleas are small and brown and are relatively easy to see with the naked eye. 

what's bugging my pet? this image compares the size of a flea to the tip of a pen to indicate its small size.
what's bugging my pet, an image showing a side profile of a flea.

Check the tummy and groin: Have your pet lie on his side and check thinly-haired areas like the tummy or the insides of his back legs.

Use a FLEA COMB: Run a fine-toothed flea comb along your pets back or underbelly making sure to apply enough pressure so the comb comes in contact with the skin. Flea poo – commonly called “flea dirt” – looks like small black pepper specks. 

an image showing speckles of flea dirt between a pet's fur for the article what's bugging my pet

The White Towel Test:

Have your pet stand on a white paper towel or cloth. Brush or rub his coat and check to see if there are black droppings on the towel. Flea dirt will look like tiny black grains of sand and will turn red if you put water on them.

If you can’t see any fleas or flea dirt, but your dog or cat continues to scratch or seems uncomfortable, have your vet check him over. It’s also possible that his food or environment may be causing an allergy and the vet can diagnose this during your visit. 

How Do I Know If My Dog Or Cat Has Ticks?

It’s difficult to know your pet has ticks by just looking at him. Ticks don’t usually cause itching and scratching like fleas do. You need a hands-on approach. Ticks are small (3-5mm) when they latch on to your pet, but once they start sucking blood, they increase and swell in size (+-10mm).  They often attach in areas where you won’t notice them. 

what's bugging my pet, an image showing a ruler measuring the sizes of ticks.
what's bugging my pet, an image showing a tick hiding between the fur on  a pet's back.

While grooming your dog or cat, run your hands over his whole coat and feel for any lumps or bumps. Ticks like to lurk in skin folds or where the coat is thicker, eg. around the neck or even inside the ears. The best way to prevent ticks from attaching and feeding to use preventable treatments (click here for DOGS & and here for CATS)

NB! Ticks Carry Disease!

Ticks can spread diseases like Babesiosis (Biliary) and Ehrlichia (Tick Bite Fever).  If your tick has visited a “high tick” area and shows any of the following symptoms, get him to a vet immediately!

  • not eating
  • salivating
  • vomiting, 
  • drinking a lot of water
  • light or yellow mucous membranes (if you gently pull down your pet’s lower eyelid or look at his gums and these membranes seem pale or yellowish, rather than their regular healthy pink colour, there’s a problem)
  • dehydration
  • weakness
  • dark or bloody wee

These are only a few symptoms so chat to your vet if you are at all concerned. 

2. OBLITERATE

The time to start tick and flea treatment is now!  With rising temperatures, more and more parasites are hatching, increasing your pet’s chance of exposure.  Fleas are around all year, especially in areas with a mild climate, but the presence of ticks, flies and mosquitoes increases drastically after the first rains.  

Do My Animals Really Need Tick And Flea Treatment If They Stay In The Yard?

Pets visiting areas with long grass like parks and nature reserves will obviously be more at risk for picking up ticks.  But what about dog and cats who spend most of their time in your yard?  Keep in mind that many other tick hosts like hares, rats, guinea fowl and other wild birds, etc. may come onto your property and bring their bugs with them.  Flea eggs and larvae can be brought in the same way.

Also, don’t forget about the other pets they meet at parks, pet day care centres or kennels?  If their owners aren’t as religious as you are about parasite control, these animals can expose yours to fleas, ticks, mange or any other nasties.

Getting Rid Of Fleas In The House

Fleas will continue to multiply and thrive on your dog or cat and in your house until you break their life cycle. Fortunately, there are safe and effective flea treatments available, such as sprays, collars,  oral treatments and topical spot-on, to help you get rid of fleas in the house and on your pet.

But bear in mind that if your dog or cat has scratched a raw patch or drawn blood, you’ll need to see your vet, as antibiotics for the infection and a more intensive treatment plan may be necessary.  

Surely Tick And Flea Treatments Aren’t Necessary All Year Round?

Really?  Here’s some food for thought:

  • Fleas can live outdoors in temperatures as low as 0.5 degrees Celsius for up to five days (long enough to latch onto your dog, come into your home, and enjoy the cosiness of your living room).
  • Flea eggs can live year-round in areas like bedding and kennels.
  • Ticks are certainly more active in the late summer and early autumn. BUT, even in winter, if the temperature rises above just 5 degrees C, ticks will become active again. So, on those lovely warm winter days, when you just have to take your pet outside to enjoy the sunshine, you’re exposing him to ticks.

You might choose to “take a dance with chance” and not apply tick and flea treatments in the cooler months.  But this could lead to your dog or cat becoming infested with some nasty bugs that, at best, cause a lot of discomfort to him and the rest of your household and, at worst, to a potential tragic loss to biliary or another parasite-related illness. Vets recommend year-round tick and flea treatment for both dogs and cats.

6 Most Common Bugs That Bug Pets

what's bugging my pet, an image showing 6 different parasites that can causes issues in pets.
  1. Fleas 
  2. Ticks 
  3. Flies
  4. Mosquitoes 
  5. Mange (Demodectic and Sarcoptic) 
  6. Spirocerca Lupi 

Check out all the different products available on ePETstore for DOGS and CATS, and choose those that best suit your household.  You’ll need to consider which bugs you want to treat and how long you’d like the product to last. 

Prevention and/or prompt treatment for parasites are always safer for your pet, and a lot more comfortable.  

Don’t wait … obliterate!

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