Cat itching itself in the grass

Cat Fleas and Ticks

We all want our feline friends to be happy and healthy, but external parasites can sometimes get in the way and cause various illnesses in your cat. Fortunately, there is a wide range of flea and tick preventatives that are very effective in protecting your cat against these pesky critters. With the help of your dedicated veterinarian, you can ensure your cat thrives and doesn't ever have to suffer some of the conditions these parasites spread. At Veterinary Medical Center, we want all pet owners to be educated on how to improve their cats' health and wellbeing. If you have any questions about fleas and ticks or the prevention thereof, please call us at (510) 441-8500, and we will do everything we can to get your kitty on the right path.

What are fleas and ticks?

Fleas are very tiny insects that feed off of and get nutrients from the blood of animals. The flea lifecycle typically spans over twelve days, but an adult flea can lay up to fifty eggs in their lifetime. Fleas are commonly found outside in grassy areas but can migrate into your home on shoes, clothing, and fur. There, they reproduce rapidly by laying their eggs in your carpets, upholstery, and many other hidden areas. Once these eggs hatch, they develop into larvae and pupae before becoming adults and laying their eggs.

Ticks are small, round, spider-like creatures that also feed on animals' blood. They go through four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Ticks can bite and feed on pets during their larval, nymph, and adult stages. Female ticks lay thousands of eggs in the environment, which then hatch into larvae and attach to hosts like small mammals or pets. Once they become nymphs, they find new hosts to feed on.

Person applying flea and tick medication

How do fleas and ticks impact the health and wellbeing of my cat?

Fleas and ticks can cause a range of health issues for cats, including skin irritations, hair loss, anemia, and the transmission of diseases. Flea bites can cause extreme itchiness in cats, leading to redness, raw skin, and bloody sores due to over-scratching. Some cats may develop flea allergy dermatitis, a sensitivity to flea saliva that causes intense itching. Persistent scratching and irritation from fleas and ticks can also result in patchy fur loss and rough or spiky fur. Fleas and ticks feed on the blood of their hosts; if left untreated severe anemia can be life-threatening, especially in kittens. Ticks can transmit vector-borne diseases such as Lyme Disease, causing symptoms like fever, decreased appetite, and stiff or swollen joints. If left untreated flea-borne diseases can lead to serious complications such as cardiac problems, neurologic dysfunction, joint damage, and kidney failure. If a cat swallows a flea, it can lead to a tapeworm infection which can cause weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea.

How do cats get fleas and ticks?

Cats can get fleas and ticks from a variety of sources, including the outdoors, other animals, and even humans. Fleas thrive in warm and humid climates, while ticks can be found in tall grasses, trees, and shrubs. Cats that spend time outdoors are more likely to come across these parasites. Even indoor cats aren't safe; fleas and ticks can enter a home through another pet or human clothing. Once inside, these parasites can lay eggs in cracks or crevices and multiply quickly, potentially infesting your cat.

Why is the prevention of fleas and ticks so important?

Preventing flea and tick infestations is the best way to protect your cat from the health issues these parasites can cause. Fleas and ticks can cause severe allergic reactions, resulting in uncomfortable itching, hair loss, and even secondary skin infections. They can also transmit vector-borne diseases that can have serious consequences for your pet. Furthermore, fleas and ticks can spread quickly throughout a home if left untreated, making it more difficult and expensive to get rid of an infestation than preventing one in the first place.

How can a veterinarian help with flea and tick prevention?

A veterinarian can provide valuable insight and guidance into flea and tick prevention. They can help pet owners choose the most suitable products and explain the differences between repellents, which keep fleas and ticks away from your pet, and treatments, which kill these parasites after they have attached to your pet. Veterinarians can also advise on the frequency of application and any potential side effects or interactions with other medications that may occur. Furthermore, a veterinarian can provide guidance on proper application techniques to ensure that the product is used effectively.

What are some signs and symptoms of a flea and tick infestation in your cat?

It's essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms of flea and tick infestations in cats so that you can identify an infestation early and take action.

The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Visible fleas or ticks on the cat's body
  • Tiny pepper-like specks on your cat's fur (flea dirt)
  • Intense scratching or biting
  • Excessive grooming
  • Hair loss
  • Red skin lesions or scab-like bumps
  • Pale gums
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle loss
  • Avoiding certain parts of the home

What do fleas and ticks look like?

Fleas are small, wingless insects with a dark brown color and flat bodies. They typically measure about 1/8 inch in length and possess six legs, with the hind legs being longer and stronger, enabling them to jump considerable distances. Ticks, on the other hand, are arachnids that are closely related to spiders. They possess eight legs and have a tear-drop or oval-shaped body before feeding, which becomes round after feeding. Ticks can be difficult to see with the naked eye, but they are larger than fleas.

What are some possible diseases that fleas and ticks can transmit?

Fleas and ticks can transmit various cat diseases and internal parasites:

Cat itching itself with a hind leg

These diseases can cause fever, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and other serious health issues. If left untreated, they can be fatal.

What are the Most Effective Flea and Tick Treatments for Cats?

The most effective flea and tick treatments for cats are prescription medications, such as spot-on products, oral medications, and injections. Spot-on products are topical liquid treatments that can be applied directly to your cat's skin between their shoulder blades or upper neck. These methods effectively control fleas and ticks, but it's important to consult a veterinarian to determine the best option for your pet.

What Should I Do If I Find Fleas or Ticks on My Cat?

If you see any signs of fleas or ticks on your cat, it is essential to reach out to your veterinarian as soon as possible to the appropriate measures can be taken. In the case of ticks, your cat's body will need to be searched, and all ticks must be removed gently pulling with tweezers or a tick removal device. Fleas are removed with a specialized fine-toothed metal comb carefully dipped into a soap and water mixture to kill fleas. Once all parasites are removed, your cat must be put on the appropriate flea and tick medication to prevent the occurrence of diseases. You must also exercise some environmental control by ensuring your home and your cat's bed are free of fleas or ticks.

In Conclusion

Fleas and ticks are the causative factors of a wide range of diseases in cats, not to mention the extreme skin irritation, anemia, and hair loss they could lead to. The best way to protect your cat is undoubtedly putting them on effective flea and tick preventatives only a veterinarian can provide. At Veterinary Medical Center we are determined to help pet owners maintain their cats' health and keep them safe from parasites like fleas and ticks. If you are in the Union City, CA area, call us today to schedule an appointment and get your cat on a sound preventative. We are always here to help.