Keeping your pet healthy can be a struggle particularly during the summer months. Fleas not only cause itching and skin irritation to your pet (or yourself), but can carry tapeworm as well. A cat or dog will sometimes ingest a flea that is carrying tapeworm larvae, whether licking a flea bite or ingesting a rodent that has carried the fleas. Once the tapeworm parasite is ingested, it attaches itself to your pet's intestinal wall and feeds off his nutrients. This can make your pet sick and can be potentially fatal.
Fleas are parasites that prey upon weak or unhealthy animals. Although any animal can contract fleas, the fleas tend to favor animals whose immune systems and bodies are weakest. Use a special flea comb to remove any fleas you can see from your pet. Oftentimes, you can see "flea dirt," black specks of flea excrement, where they have been (most noticeably on their tail, behind the ears and hind legs). Treatments for fleas on the animal include flea collars, flea dips and flea powders.
To prevent fleas from becoming a problem for your pet and your home, vacuum the carpets regularly. Use an over-the-counter carpet powder with anti-flea treatments such as Nylar, a chemical that prevents flea eggs from hatching. It is also important to wash the animal's bedding and to keep your pet bathed and groomed. If you see your pet is doing a lot of scratching or chewing, it would be a good idea to inspect them for fleas and stop any problem before it starts.
You will be able to see if your pet has tapeworms by inspecting its feces for signs of white specks. These are the tapeworms and their larvae. The tapeworms will sometimes appear like grains of rice, roughly the same size and shape. Sometimes you will be able to see the tapeworms on your pet's bedding as well. Your veterinarian can prescribe medication for you such as praziquante for cats or fenbendazole for dogs. Natural pet remedies such as Tape-eze will also work; however, they take almost three times as long as conventional treatments.
Since tapeworms can infect humans as well as animals, it is important to prevent tapeworm infestation in your household. A pet can become re-infected with tapeworms in as little as two weeks; however, if this happens, it is because their environment has become infested as tapeworm medications are effective. The most important preventive measure is flea control. Also, washing any bedding and upholstery that comes in contact with the affected animal will help with flea control as will bathing the animal with flea control shampoo. Disposing of any animal waste in the yard and teaching children to wash up properly when coming in from the outdoors will eliminate infestation.
Outdoor Flea and Tapeworm Prevention
If you have outdoor pets or have an animal that occasionally goes outside, it can be difficult to prevent fleas from getting on your pet and making them scratch. It can help to mow your lawn and water it regularly to keep fleas away. By keeping the grass short, it will cause the heat to penetrate the soil and kill any flea larvae. You can also apply agricultural lime over moist areas of the yard to dehydrate the fleas, spread diatomaceous earth (a mineral formed by algae fossils) over any open areas and cracks in the pavement and rake up any dead leaves or grassy debris in the yard to keep the fleas from breeding there.