Vet Blog

Itchy and Scratchy: The Damage Caused by Fleas and Ticks

May 31, 2019

Many people think that parasites and pets go hand in hand.

While many pets will experience a parasite infestation at some point during their lifetime, it isn't inevitable. This is important as no parasite is good for your pet, and some can be extremely dangerous. Fleas and ticks are two of the most common types of parasites that affect domestic animals. While they may be small and look harmless, they can be extremely damaging for our furry friends.

Here is what you need to know about the damage that can potentially be caused by fleas and ticks and why it is important that you invest in proper parasite preventative care.


Most Cedar Park pet owners know that fleas can cause intense itching. The reason for this is that their saliva contains toxins that can irritate the skin, causing your pet to feel the need to scratch to alleviate the irritation. Obviously, the more fleas your pet has, the more bites he will receive and the worse the itchiness will become. However, many people don't realize how damaging this tiny, seemingly innocent parasite can be for their pets. These include causing blood loss, flea allergy dermatitis, and even transmit diseases.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

While the general itch affects all animals, some experience it far worse than others. This is because many pets are allergic to flea saliva and this hypersensitivity, called flea allergy dermatitis, can cause severe itchiness that may persist even after flea treatment has been given. The lesions caused by flea allergy dermatitis aren't restricted to the sites of the bites either. They can appear anywhere on the body.

How Do I Know if My Pet Has Fleas or Flea Allergy Dermatitis?

The key symptoms of fleas and flea allergy dermatitis are almost the same and include the following:

  • Hair loss
  • Scratching and itching, sometimes intensely
  • Chewing and biting at themselves, in particular on their tail, legs, and hind
  • Open, oozing sores
  • Skin damage

In some instances, the skin damage caused by persistent itching can result in an infection that requires antibiotics.

Fleas and Disease

Many people don't realize that fleas can carry diseases and potentially transmit several illnesses to humans and other animals, including typhus, tapeworms, and even plague.

Prevention and Treatment for Fleas

One of the biggest problems with fleas is the rapid rate at which they reproduce. Just a couple of fleas can very quickly turn into a large infestation of them which will worsen the symptoms experienced by your pet. They are also supremely difficult to get rid of as their eggs are microscopic and can lurk in the tiniest of gaps in your home.

For these reasons and the effects that fleas can have on your pet, it is essential that you take proactive steps to prevent them from affecting your pet. There are countless preventatives available from oral tablets to topical treatments and your veterinarian will be able to help you find the most suitable variety for your furbaby. Remember to stick to the schedule of administration to ensure that your pet remains protected at all times.


Ticks are another form of external parasite that can affect our pets by biting them and drinking their blood. Unlike fleas, ticks do not tend to cause itching. Instead, they put your pet at risk in a number of ways, including through blood loss (in large tick infestations) and tick-borne diseases.

Ticks and Tick Paralysis

Tick paralysis is a rare, tick-borne disease that is the only one not caused by an infectious organism. Instead, it is caused by a neurotoxin that is produced in the tick's salivary gland. Once the tick has been attached to your pet for some time, it transmits the toxin to him triggering the onset of paralysis. This paralysis begins with the lower extremities and progresses upwards. Eventually, it can affect your pet's diaphragm, causing respiratory arrest - at which point it can be fatal. Tick paralysis can also affect humans although again, instances are rare.

According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, there are four types of ticks capable of causing tick paralysis. These are:

  • American Dog Tick
  • Deer Tick
  • Rocky Mountain Wood Tick
  • Lone Star Tick

Animals affected by tick paralysis usually develop symptoms within 2-7 days of the disease being transmitted. These start with weakness in the limbs and eventually cause paralysis in the whole body.

Ticks and Disease

Ticks are well-known for their disease-carrying capabilities. Some of the diseases that can be transmitted by ticks, some of which can also affect humans, include:

  • Lyme Disease
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Bartonellosis
  • Hepatozoonosis

Prevention and Treatment for Ticks

There is no treatment as such for ticks, only for the diseases that they cause. However, if you remove a tick quickly, you can stop it from potentially transmitting the disease to your pet. This is because, contrary to popular belief, it takes time for the disease to be passed over and doesn't happen immediately on contact. There are tick removal tools that you can purchase, and your vet will be happy to advise you on the best way to safely remove a tick from your pet's body.

There are lots of different types of tick preventatives available and again, these will need to be administered regularly to ensure that your pet is protected all year round.

If you would like more information on how to prevent and/or treat your pet's parasites, please contact Block House Creek Animal Hospital in Cedar Park, TX today by calling (512) 259-4200.

Book an Appointment Here!