Summer is heating up, and parasites are making their presence known. While capable of surfacing from their hiding places anytime the temperature rises above freezing, fleas and ticks enjoy warmer temperatures much more, and will venture forth in search of their next meal, and make a snack out of your pet. Seasonal changes also stimulate plant growth and pollen release, which can also make your furry pal uncomfortable. Without a proper physical exam, differentiating between parasite problems and allergies can be difficult, so we always recommend scheduling an appointment with the Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital team for your four-legged friend’s issues. 

Signs of flea issues in pets

Fleas can be tricky to spot, especially on a dark-haired pet. In fact, many pet owners don’t believe us when we mention their pet has fleas, until we comb out the flea dirt or a live flea. As they gasp in horror, we explain that fleas are sneaky and they take advantage of a late or missed preventive dose. 

Fleas are also difficult to eradicate from your environment once they set up shop, and months of continuous treatment and prevention can be required, to fully eliminate all the life stages. The adult fleas you see on your pet are only 5% of the total population, and the other life stages—particularly the pupal form—are exceptionally hardy.

The most common sign of your pet suffering from fleas is excessive chewing, scratching, licking, or biting at themselves, particularly the hind end. Some pets are hypersensitive to fleas, and a mere handful can trigger an impressive allergic reaction that leaves the pet’s hind end hairless. Dogs and cats can chew themselves to the point of developing raw, oozing sores, known as hot spots, but proper flea prevention for the pet and the home will help bring relief. Occasionally, antibiotics and steroids are warranted to soothe inflamed skin and battle infection, but the crucial element is high quality flea prevention.

If your pet has fleas, you may see tiny black specks on their skin, or clumped in their fur. Known as flea dirt, these specks are your pet’s blood that the fleas have digested—in other words, flea poop. If you’re unsure whether you’ve found flea dirt or actual dirt on your pet, dampen a paper towel, and blot the black specks. If they turn red, it’s flea dirt. Adult fleas can be difficult to find, especially if your pet has only a few, as they are excellent jumpers, and will quickly hop away. But, you can avoid all these issues by keeping your pet on year-round flea prevention.

Signs of tick bites in pets

When people think of tick bites, they often picture the stereotypical bulls-eye rash associated with human Lyme disease cases. This identifying feature does not occur in pets, so discovering ticks can be a challenge, especially if the pet has a thick hair coat. Nymphal ticks are tiny, and nearly impossible to spot, and some adult tick species require a blood meal to reach a visible size. Once a tick latches onto your pet, the bite area will likely become red and swollen, and a small sore will be left behind once the tick is removed. Some pets may scratch or bite at an embedded tick, but these pests are sly, and inject a numbing agent as they feed. Save your pet the pain of becoming a tick’s meal by keeping them on year-round tick prevention.

Signs of allergies in pets

While pets can commonly have flea allergies, they can also develop a hypersensitivity to almost anything. Typical allergens include dust mites, mold, trees, grasses, bushes, or any plant that produces pollen. On rare occasions, pets may develop food allergies, but the usual cause is the protein source, not grain. Over time, pet allergies tend to become more severe, especially if the immune system is constantly battling allergens. Pets with allergies present with itching, scratching, and chewing, which can be generalized, or localized to one spot, like a paw. Red, inflamed skin will appear through thin or missing fur, and hot spots may develop if chewing is incessant. Ear infections are another common indication of a pet suffering from allergies. To differentiate between allergies and a parasite issue, a physical exam is necessary, potentially with further diagnostic testing. If you can’t sleep at night because your furry pal is slurping, chewing, and scratching, check closely for fleas and ticks, and schedule an appointment with our team.

How to keep your pet protected from parasites

The best way to protect your pet from becoming a blood-sucking parasite’s meal is with year-round prevention. San Diego never gets cold enough to eradicate pests in winter, so skipping a dose leaves your furry pal exposed. Set a reminder in your phone to help ensure you give your pet’s preventive on time each month, or sign up for autoship through our online pharmacy, to ensure prevention medication regularly ends up at your door each month. 

If you’re unsure about the best choice of parasite prevention product to protect your furry pal, stop in and discuss your options, or schedule an appointment to get to the bottom of your pet’s itching.