If your little mate is suffering from a parasite infestation, you’re not alone. Fleas, ticks, lice and mites are very common, and once they appear they can be stubborn little critters that simply refuse to flee.  So, if you’re looking for a natural flea and tick treatment, keep reading.

Signs of fleas, ticks, lice, mosquitos and mites:

  • Scratching
  • Mild redness
  • “Flea dirt” — the black flea droppings left on your pet’s coat

If fleas are left untreated they can also lead to flea allergy dermatitis, which is extremely uncomfortable and can be dangerous for your little mate.

What are my options for treating parasites – fleas, ticks, mosquitos, mites?

Tick and flea control is a two-step process: both the environment and the pet must be treated with natural flea and tick products.

Prevention is better than cure! Repellents are a cornerstone of prevention.

Other steps in your treatment regime should include:

Routine checking – Look for fleas, ticks and coat abnormalities any time you brush or shampoo your dog or cat, or when you return home from areas that are likely to have higher numbers of these parasites.

Keep it clean – Reduce the flea population in your house by thoroughly cleaning your pet’s sleeping quarters and vacuuming floors and furniture that your pet comes in contact with frequently. Careful and regular vacuuming/cleaning of the pet’s living area helps to remove and kill flea eggs, larvae and pupae. You may also have to treat your house with insecticides. Rufus & Coco 7 Day Flea Fix contains concentrated natural pyrethrins that treat all cold blooded insects. It can be placed into the rinse cycle of your washing machine with pet bedding, or diluted into a spray bottle to spritz your pet’s living area – avoiding food bowls of course!  Wash your pet’s bedding in hot water every week or two.

Repellent Spray – If you live in a flea infested area, use a repellent spray before every walk or extended play outdoors, like Rufus & Coco Bug Off, which contains pyrethrins and citronella. It will repel all parasites, and immobilise them on contact. This will prevent you from bringing home new critters after a walk!

Shampoos – Flea and tick shampoos help to rid your pet of the fleas and ticks he already has. Be sure to work the shampoo in over the entire body and then leave it on at least 10 minutes before you rinse it off. We recommend Rufus & Coco Flea Flee with natural pyrethrins to safely kill any critters that are present.

Flea/lice combs – Your pet will love the extra hands-on attention he gets as you comb through his coat to remove fleas. Flea/lice combs are a safe method to use on ill, pregnant or young pets. Place the fleas you comb off in detergent water to kill them.

Once-a-month topical insecticides – These are applied to a small area on your pet’s back. Some kill fleas and ticks, and others just kill fleas, so check the label carefully. Ingredients generally include permethrin, pyrethrin, or fipronil. Since many dog products can be very harmful if used on cats, read the label carefully. Remember: Do NOT use products containing permethrins on cats.

Flea Rinse – A diluted flea rinse like Rufus & Coco 7 Day Flea Fix can be sprayed, dipped or sponged onto your pet and left on. With natural pyrethrins to treat all cold blooded insects, it will provide lasting protection for up to a week.

Need advice? See your veterinarian if your pet excessively scratches, chews, or licks its coat, or persistently shakes its head. These clinical signs may indicate the presence of external parasites or other conditions requiring medical care and may need more than a natural flea and tick solution.

Product recommendations:

Fleas

Fleas are 2-8 mm long (no bigger than a sesame seed) with fantastic jumping ability. Adult fleas are dark brown and able to move rapidly over your pet’s skin.

Fleas have eyes and antennae, which detect heat, vibration, carbon dioxide, shadows and changes in air currents, all of which indicate a possible meal is nearby. Fleas feed on the blood of animals. They can go several months without a meal. Fleas may also bite humans.

Fleas thrive when the weather is warm and humid. Depending on your climate, fleas may be a seasonal or year-round problem. Your pet can pick up fleas wherever an infestation exists, often in areas frequented by other cats and dogs

There are four stages in the development of fleas (this cycle varies from 12 days to 6 months):

  1. Eggs – 24 hours following a female and male mating. Fleas lay approximately 50 eggs per day A flea can produce 400 to 1,000 eggs in her lifetime (several months to two years, depending on the species). Female eggs are often laid on the animal, but because they are not sticky, fall off into the environment. Along with the eggs, the female flea deposits a large amount of faeces (often called ‘flea dirt’).
  2. Larvae – Tiny, worm-like larvae hatch from the eggs and burrow into carpets, under furniture, your pet’s bed or into soil before spinning a cocoon.
  3. Pupae –  The cocooned flea pupae can lie dormant (inactive) for weeks before emerging as adults that are ready to infest (or reinfest) your pet.
4. Adults – Adult fleas live their entire lives on your pet.

Ticks

Unlike fleas, flies and lice, which are insects, ticks are arachnids like mites and spiders. There are approximately 850 species of ticks worldwide. Scientists have classified ticks into two families based on their structure: Ixodidae and Argasidae.

The paralysis tick and the brown dog tick are the two most common ticks on dogs. However, it is the paralysis tick that is by far the most dangerous. It causes paralysis in a variety of forms but a ‘typical’ case starts with weakness of the hindquarters that progresses to total paralysis of all four legs. Other typical early signs include an altered bark or meow and vomiting. When the chest muscles and muscles of the throat become affected, the dog or cat is in serious trouble. Ticks are most often found around your dog’s neck, in the ears, in the folds between the legs and the body, and between the toes. Cats may have ticks on their neck or face.

The brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, is considered a serious pest as it is the most troublesome pest of dogs in northern Australia. It can also be found almost anywhere in Queensland, along the coastal and inland areas of NSW, in Melbourne and in the northern part of South Australia.

The brown dog tick has no native host. It is often carried on the dog into the house where it can become a household pest    

The brown dog tick uses three hosts to complete its life cycle. The female brown dog tick can lay 2,000 – 5,000 eggs in her lifetime. The development of the eggs requires a temperature of 20°C or above. This tick will happily complete its entire life cycle in the house, using the dog as its host for each stage of the lifecycle

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Ticks crawl but cannot fly since they have no wings. They possess a sensory apparatus called ‘Haller’s organ’. This structure senses odour, heat and humidity. This is how the ticks locate their food source. They climb on tall grass and when they sense an animal is close by, they crawl on.

A tick’s diet consists of blood only. The tick imbeds its mouthparts into the animal’s (or human’s) skin and sucks the blood. Except for the eggs, ticks require a blood meal to progress to each successive stage in their life cycle.

All ticks have four stages to their life cycle: egg, larvae (seed tick), nymph and adult.

Tick bites can cause skin irritation and heavy infestations can cause anemia in pets.

Ticks are also capable of spreading serious infectious diseases (such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and others) to the pets and the people on which they feed. Disease risk varies by geographic area and tick species.

How do I know if my pet has a tick?

  • Excessive licking – in the spot where the tick is.
  • Loss of control – of the throat and voice box first, with regurgitation and vomiting common (stage 1).
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Paralysis – hind leg weakness/paralysis (stage 2). Total paralysis occurs last (stage 3). Laboured breathing and grunting is common at this stage.
  • It is a good idea to check your dog for ticks after they have been out on walks, especially if they have been into the bush and walked through long grass. You might find 2 apparently different types of ticks. One will be small (the size of a match head) and flat and the other will be greyish in colour and often quite large (pea-sized). The first is the male tick and the second is the female after having had a blood meal.

Lice

Lice are insects that can be seen with the naked eye. They are flattened, possess no wings 
and are very host-specific. Cats and dogs have their own species of lice, neither of which infect humans. They spend their entire life cycle on the pet and feed on their skin debris. 

There are several kinds of lice. Blood-sucking lice belong to the Anoplura group. Those that do not suck blood, but rather chew skin, are grouped as 
Mallophaga.

Lice are uncommon in dogs and cats and usually associated with animals in poor condition. Lice are easily killed with the use of a good insecticidal spray.

How do I know if my pet has lice?

  • Scruffy, dry hair coat – most common.
  • Hair loss  – may occur and the animal may itch, at times severely.
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Weaken – In very heavy infestations of blood-sucking lice (biting), one may detect aneamia in puppies. Mature dogs, particularly females with nursing puppies, may be greatly weakened.
  • Irritation – The pest can also be a source of irritation to cats and kittens. A diagnosis can usually be made with the naked eye.
  • Eggs – Lice lay eggs that look like little white grains of sand attached to the shaft of a hair.
  • Transmission of lice is by direct contact with an infested pet. Unlike fleas and ticks, lice do not persist or travel in the environment. Grooming instruments may, however, serve as a source of transmission.

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are insects thus related to lice, fleas, and flies. Mosquitoes have six legs, a pair of wings, compound eyes, large antennae, and that problematic proboscis with which the females suck blood. (Male mosquitoes eat nectar.)

To make them even peskier, some female mosquitoes can hibernate during the winter and lay their eggs in spring. They generally travel for about 3.2km from their breeding grounds, or even further if blown by the wind.

The mosquito life cycle

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It only takes about 2 weeks (less if it is very warm) for the life cycle to be completed.  The male and female mosquitoes find each other by the sound generated by a female mosquito’s wings, which is a higher pitch than that of the male.

Lice – Each female can lay 100-400 eggs. Mosquitoes need water as a place where they can lay their eggs one at a time, or in “rafts” of up to 200 eggs, depending upon the species.


Lavae – The eggs hatch into larvae about 2 days after being laid. The larvae (also called ‘wigglers’) live in the water for 7-10 days.


Pupal – the eggs mature into the pupal (also called ‘tumbler’) stage.

Adults – In 2-3 days, these pupae have developed into adults and fly away and mate.


About the Author: Lorren Godfrey – Lorren has the lucky job of developing new and innovative Rufus & Coco products that help pets look and feel great, and make life easier for pet owners!
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