What is Ticks and Tick Control?
Ticks are common, parasitic organisms that grow, survive and reproduce by feeding on the blood of your pet. While many may think of ticks as insects, ticks are actually arachnids in the same family as spiders and scorpions. Ticks are potentially more harmful to your cat due to their ability to cause anemia and the, on average, lower body mass of cats versus dogs. Ticks can also carry a number of harmful infections and diseases which can be passed on to your cat after the tick has bitten and latched on.
Symptoms of Ticks and Tick Control in Cats
Ticks are easily identifiable on the skin of your cat. Ticks will appear as slightly raised bumps when you stroke your cat’s fur. Upon closer examination of the skin, you will find small brown or black ticks attached to your cat. Ticks can range from the size of a pinhead to a pencil eraser in mass. Typically, the larger the tick, the longer it has been feeding on your cat.
While a severe tick infestation in your cat can cause anemia from loss of blood, common tick-borne diseases, and infection cause a variety of symptoms such as:
- Joint Pain
- Heart conditions after long periods without treatment
Causes of Ticks and Tick Control in Cats
Nymph (young adult) and adult ticks attach themselves to blades of grass, weeds or other ground level plants. As your cat walks by and brushes these plants, the ticks then transfer to their fur where they then latch on to your cat’s skin. Adult ticks will lay and hatch eggs, causing a tick infestation in your cat if not properly treated.
When the ticks bite into your cat, they transfer whatever bacteria or infectious diseases they may be carrying. The most common tick-borne disease is Lyme disease. Most cats have a relatively good immunity towards Lyme and are not very susceptible. However, ticks also can carry a host of other pathogens or spread to other pets in your family, or even people.
Diagnosis of Ticks and Tick Control in Cats
Diagnosis of the presence of ticks in your cat will start with a thorough physical examination. Your vet will methodically search your cat for bumps or visually for the tiny black or brown bugs. Your veterinarian will pay special attention to the underbelly, chin, and legs areas since these are the preferred points of attachment for ticks. Your veterinarian will also check your cat’s gums to confirm whether they are healthy pink, or pale white, which would indicate anemia.
Once ticks are located, your veterinarian will also order a full blood panel. The blood results will uncover whether your cat has become infected with any diseases or other pathogens that the ticks may have been carrying. This will also allow your vet to more thoroughly assess your cat’s overall health and levels of iron deficiency, or anemia, if any.
Treatment of Ticks and Tick Control in Cats
Treatment of ticks in your cat will take two forms. Your cat will first be treated for the initial tick infestation and then a preventative course will be prescribed.
Treatment for Tick Infestation
The treatment for the initial tick infestation in your cat will involve several stages. First, your cat will be thoroughly examined and ticks will be removed by your veterinarian. Proper removal of the ticks located on your cat is an important step. Often times cat owners will pull off a tick themselves but will leave a portion of the mouth behind, which can cause infections or other health issues.
Gloves should be worn at all times when handling ticks, as many of the diseases they carry can be passed on to humans. Your vet may also give a course of antibiotics to clear up any underlying infection or an infusion or iron boosting medications if your cat has signs of anemia from tick infestation. Finally, your cat may be given a special bath that will discourage ticks from latching on.
The second step of treatment will involve tick prevention in your cat. There are many options for tick prevention and you should discuss which one is right for your particular pet. Tick collars work by spreading a fine chemical substance on your cat’s skin which makes it unpalatable for ticks. Topical tick chemicals are also available in which you’d apply a treatment to your cat once a month. Topical treatments can contain chemicals that are hazardous to your cat and should only ever be given at the direction of your vet and in the smallest dose necessary to ensure treatment. Finally, oral chewable are also available for tick treatment.
Recovery of Ticks and Tick Control in Cats
With property treatment, most cats make a full recovery from their tick infestation. Ticks can be removed in the same day as your office visit. Underlying symptoms are easily treated with medications. For ongoing management, you should pay careful attention to any schedules for your tick prevention, whether it be topical, collar based, or oral. Adhering to the appropriate timing for these is key in keeping ticks from re-infesting your cat.