Fleas and Ticks – Protection & Prevention
Fleas and Ticks may be small, but they can cause big problems for your pet! Fear not, we are going to give you some helpful information to defend your pet against these little creatures!
What are Fleas & Ticks?
Fleas are 1-3mm long dark-coloured wingless insects that are very agile (they move by crawling or jumping around). They have a mouthpiece that enables them to bite the host and feed on their blood.
The most common type of flea that affects both dogs and cats in Singapore and worldwide is called Ctenocephalides felis (also known as the cat flea). Their life cycle involves 4 stages, from egg to adult, and is about 2-3 weeks in length, with the pupal (3rd) stage being able to survive in the environment for up to a year if undisturbed.
Ticks on the other hand are a lot larger (comparatively) and hence easier to spot. They belong to the arachnid family (like spiders and mites).
The most common species found in Singapore is Rhipicephalus sanguineus, also known as the Brown Dog tick. The males are much smaller than the females, about 3mm in length, whilst the female after feeding can be 10-12mm long.
Similar to the flea, ticks, more notably the females, attach onto the host and feed on their blood. Ticks also have 4 stages in their life cycle, which can take up to 3 years to complete as they require a host to feed on to progress from one stage to the next.
Typical Life Cycle of brown dog ticks: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
How do I tell if my pets have fleas or ticks?
Fleas are sometimes difficult to spot as they move very quickly. You may notice little insects jumping off your pet, crawling on the skin, or “flea dirt” – small black specks on the fur which is actually the feces (poo) of the flea.
Ticks are more obvious as they are larger in size and move a lot more slowly. The males are usually reddish brown and the females grey after they’ve had a feed. Sometimes, you may see them crawling around in the environment (walls, carpet, floor) if you have an infestation.
What problems can fleas & ticks cause?
- Involved in the transmission of tapeworm (pets and humans)
- Large numbers of fleas feeding on young animals can cause weakness, anaemia and even death, as they consume blood from the host.
- Transmits the bacteria responsible for cat scratch disease (that can cause a bad infection in humans)
- Some pets (and humans) have a hypersensitivity to the saliva of the fleas and can get severe skin reactions.
- In certain species (not so much the ones that affect our pets in Singapore) they can transmit infectious diseases.
- In Singapore, ticks are known to carry parasites such as Ehrlichia and Babesia which can cause tick fever and immune mediated haemolytic anaemia- diseases where your pet’s red and white blood cell count drop to the levels where blood transfusion may be needed.
- Can cause skin wounds where they bite, which may lead to an infection.
- Severe infestations can lead to anaemia and even death as they consume blood from the host.
- Fortunately, the most common tick species in Singapore, the brown dog tick, is not known to be an important carrier of human disease, as in other parts of the world other tick species can cause diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, Erlichiosis and Lyme disease.
Read more on ticks here.
How do I remove ticks from my pets?
DO NOT directly pull a tick off if you see one, as the mouthpiece may be left attached, causing prolonged bleeding even after the tick has been removed. The correct method of removing a tick would be to use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, before pulling gently until the tick detaches itself from the skin. DO NOT touch ticks with your bare hands as they may transmit infections.
Protecting your pet against fleas & ticks
Environmental control is important to reduce the presence of fleas and ticks. This includes regular vacuuming, washing the bedding in hot water, cleaning the floors thoroughly once weekly, and getting pest control to come into your house if the infestation is severe. If you notice your pet is constantly bringing back fleas/ticks despite preventatives and regular cleaning of your home, you may need to change the areas that it is being brought out for walks.
There are many “natural” methods of flea and tick prevention in the form of sprays, or collars. However, they have not been scientifically proven to be effective and rely on anecdotal evidence instead.
The following products are FDA-approved for flea and tick prevention and available in Singapore.
Read more on safe use of flea and tick preventive products.
- Although small in size, Fleas and Ticks can cause major issues for your beloved pet. This includes blood borne parasites, skin infections, anaemia and death.
- Do not remove ticks directly with your bare hands.
- It is important to regularly clean the surrounding environment to keep it free from fleas and ticks.
- There are many effective preventatives that are easily available and simple to administer. Talk to your vet to find out which products are best suited for your pet.
Protect your pets from fleas & ticks with Vetpal today
Vetpal is a Singapore-based housecall veterinary service treating animals in the comfort of their homes. We are supported by both NUS Enterprise and Enterprise SG.