Ask the Vet: Ticks and Fleas

How to protect Fido and Fluffy.


leas and ticks are disgusting!  If they are having a vacation in my house I am going to freak out and kick them out. Why am I discussing something so disturbing as ticks and fleas? Because it is spring and we need to protect our pets and homes from them.  In this post, we are going to talk to Dr. O’Hara about Fleas, how they live, and how to deal with them when they get on our pets and in our homes.  Freaking out may not be the best way to cope with them…


Here are what a flea looks like and this is one of many types of ticks.


There is so much info on fleas and tics that I decided to do this in two parts. First, we are going to be grossed out by fleas and then horrified by ticks. So sit back and enjoy!

Many pet owners have had some experience dealing with fleas. After all, fleas are indiscriminate parasites, happy enough to feed off of dogs and cats, ferrets and rabbits, and, of course, humans, when the opportunity presents itself.  As I write this I am feeling itchy thinking about fleas and you may too. —but try not to scratch!

Here are the fun facts. A flea’s life cycle can be broken down into four parts:

  1. egg
  2. larva
  3. pupa
  4. adult

Here is the fleas circle of life. An adult lays eggs on a host, which then roll off into the environment. When these eggs hatch into larvae, the larvae hunker down in the environment, feed, and go through several molts until they spin a cocoon and become pupae. Eventually, from the pupae emerge adult fleas, which then seek out an animal host for a blood meal. Under ideal conditions, this entire process takes about 21 days. However, fleas have a very flexible life cycle and will wait until conditions are optimal to move from one stage to another. 

This life cycle of the flea makes them super hard to get rid of as they can live in all conditions. Hot and cold.

Fleas are hardy creatures and super hard to get rid of. Dr. O’Hara. says that most of the flea medications on the market will kill adult fleas, but it’s much more difficult to get rid of eggs and especially pupae. “Some products have a compound that keeps eggs from hatching, but doesn’t kill the pupae.” This means that even if you wipe out all of the adult fleas in an infestation, the next generation might just be waiting to jump in.  To me, this is like a bad horror movie. A guest in your house that will not go away and they keep reproducing and they drink blood.

I talked to Dr. O’Hara about how to take care of your pet and also how to tackle a home infestation. She said that during a flea infestation, treating your pet isn’t enough. You have to treat the environment too. If you have an infestation there are eggs and pupae on your carpet, in between the floorboards, and even in your car if you have taken your pup out for a ride.

You gotta do some serious house cleaning. When you vacuum during a flea infestation, make sure you immediately throw that vacuum bag out because any eggs and pupae you vacuum up may still be viable. “You also want to wash everything—bedding, clothes, etc.—in hot water,” she says. Yes, this is going to be a full weekend of cleaning hell.

In the case of a particularly bad infestation, call in a professional!

Here are some fun facts about fleas and why they are so difficult to get rid of.

  • Fleas can go a long time without eating. Once the adults emerge, they try to find a blood meal immediately but, if necessary, can survive for one to two weeks without eating. 
  • A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day. That means in just 60 days you could have more than 20,00 fleas zooming around your house!
  • Fleas can jump. Like Olympic track stars. They can jump more than 150 times their body length. Think about that. They are champion jumpers.
  • Your pet can develop an allergy to flea bites and so can you. The allergy is in the saliva and if it gets too bad your pet will need medical care.
  • Fleas can transmit diseases that impact humans.
  • Fleas can also carry parasites, which they transmit to their hosts. Tapeworms are most commonly transmitted by fleas. “When dogs and cats groom fleas off their bodies, they often swallow them and then get infected.
  • Flea Complications
    1. Fleas can consume 15 times their own body weight in blood, which can cause anemia or a significant amount of blood loss in their host over time.
    2. This is especially problematic in young puppies or kittens, where an inadequate number of red blood cells can be life-threatening.
    3. Some pets have heightened sensitivity to the saliva of fleas, which can cause an allergic reaction known as flea allergy dermatitis.

It is important that you recognize the common symptoms of fleas on your DOGS and CATS

  • Droppings or “flea dirt” in a dog’s coat (small dark “grains of sand”)
  • Flea eggs (tiny, white grains)
  • Allergic dermatitis
  • Excessive scratching, licking or biting at skin
  • Hair loss
  • Scabs and hot spots
  • Pale gums
  • Tapeworms

And this is how you treat for the nasty little bugger.

Flea Treatment and Prevention

Consult your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has fleas. It is important that all of your pets are treated for fleas, including indoor and outdoor cats, and that the environment is treated as well. Once your veterinarian confirms the diagnosis, a treatment plan may include the following:

  • Topical or oral treatment or the use of shampoos, sprays, and powders on the pet.
  • Thorough cleaning of your house, including rugs, bedding, and upholstery. Severe cases may require using a spray or a fogger, which requires the temporary evacuation of the home.
  • It is very important not to use products on your cat that are intended for dogs.
  • Lawn treatments may also be needed if your pet keeps getting re-infected every time it goes outside.

Flea Prevention

  • Use a flea comb on your pet and wash his bedding once a week.
  • Keep the outside of your house free of organic debris, such as rake clippings and leaves, and remember that fleas like to hide in dark, moist, shady areas.
  • There are many preventative flea control products available, both as prescription and over-the-counter formulas.

VIDEO TIME.   Dr. O’Hara is awesome.  The information she gives about fleas is so helpful. No one wants a flea infestation or to see a pet suffer.  She will give you great info on the tel-tale signs of a flea infestation,  prevention and what to do if they get into your home.  Baxter the dog also helps out.