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ECTO-PARASITES IN PETS: TICKS &FLEAS 466 269 Ekua Esuon Thompson

Photo Credit: © 2022 by Advanced Care Veterinary

It is our desire to see our cherished pets always healthy and happy. One of the most worrying issues in taking care of our pets are ectoparasites. They just seem to always be around no matter what we do. Sometimes we resort to desperate measures in our quest to kill these irritating organisms. These parasites are more powerful than they look.

Below are some facts about ticks and fleas.

  1. Fleas are dark brown, wingless insects, with laterally compressed bodies which have a glossy surface, allowing easy movement through hairs and feathers of their host. The third pair of legs are much longer than the others, an adaptation for leaping on and off their hosts.
  2. In fleas, both sexes are blood suckers but only the adults are parasitic and the life span for fleas is averagely 1-2 years.
  • The flea spp in Dogs and Cats act as an intermediate host for tapeworm infection in dogs. This tapeworm known as Dipylidium caninum is zoonotic (i.e., can infect humans).
  • Ticks belong to a group called Arachnids (eight-legged organisms). There are generally two kinds of ticks, the hard tick (because they have a hard or rigid covering on the dorsal surface of the tick, called the scutum) and the soft tick (they lack the hard chitinous scutum).
  • All stages of the life cycle of the tick suck blood, especially the female tick. One female tick lays an average of 2500-3000 eggs at a time.
  • Ticks cannot jump or fly so they use the blades of grasses and other vegetation to elevate themselves and grasp onto moving animals (this is known as questing).
  • Ticks aside feeding on blood also transmit diseases to both animals and humans such as Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease.


  1. Picking ticks with your bare hands and squashing or crushing them. This is because ticks can habour several zoonotic pathogens and squashing them release these pathogens into the environment.
  2. Forcefully picking ticks off pets can lead to some of the mouth parts of the parasites remaining buried in the skin of your pet. This can cause irritation and inflammation of the skin.
  3. Using unknown products and chemicals with the aim of killing ticks and fleas. Some of these products may be harmful to your pet, your household, and the environment.


  1. Bath your pet regularly
  • Clean your pet’s kennel or cage as frequently as possible
  • Mow your lawn frequently
  • Use of flea combs where applicable
  • There are various products and chemicals available, both topical and oral, which can be used to kill the parasites. Talk to your vet or visit a pet shop available in your area and be assisted in choosing the best product suitable for your pet