With just a few exceptions in the United States, fleas and ticks are a common
problem for us, and our cats. So we went to
internationally known flea and tick expert Michael Dryden to find out how to
fight the flea and eliminate the tick. Dryden has a doctorate in veterinary
parasitology, is a founding member of the Companion Animal Parasite Council,
and has conducted research on almost every major flea and tick product on the
Q: How can I tell if my cat has fleas or ticks?
A: Run your hand across them, part the fur, and look at them. Generally, on
cats, look around the ears and the eyes for ticks. As far as fleas go, the
easiest thing to do is roll it over and look at its belly. Look for fleas or
flea dirt, which is basically the dried blood the fleas are defecating.
Q: Can my cat get sick from fleas and ticks?
A: Probably the most common problem is, when these fleas are feeding,
they’re injecting saliva into the skin. These salivary proteins are often
allergenic and animals end up with allergy. The most common skin
disease of dogs and cats is what’s called flea allergy dermatitis, where they
bite and scratch and lose their hair.
If you have a lot of fleas, since they’re blood-sucking insects, especially
if you have kittens, pets can become anemic and even die with heavy infestations. Fleas also
commonly transmit tapeworms to our pets, at least
Now ticks are different in cats than in dogs. There are some diseases that
dogs get that cats don’t. For instance, cats don’t get Lyme disease. They get
those ticks, they just don’t get the disease. But they can get anaplasmosis;
that’s one that’s not uncommon in cats. Cats can get tularemia. I believe they
can get Rocky Mountain spotted fever. And they get cytauxzoonosis, which is the
lethal one. It’s a blood parasite of cats that occurs from about central Kansas
almost in a straight line down to about Jacksonville, Fla. In some areas it’s
fairly rare, in others it’s very prevalent. There is no effective
Q: Are fleas and ticks worse in some areas? Where?
A: Ticks and fleas can be worse from one area to another and can vary
seasonally and from year to year. There’s one particular flea species that we
find on dogs and cats in North America that predominates. If you look it up
it’s called Ctenocephalides felis, or the cat flea, because its species
name is felis. For that flea, the primary determining factor of
populations is humidity. So why are their more fleas in Tampa, Fla., than in
Kansas City? Why are there more fleas in Kansas City then Denver? Humidity.
Once you get into the Rocky Mountain states, for example, or even the Western
areas of the plains states, fleas on dogs and cats are not that much of a
problem because it’s just too dry. The Gulf Coast region of North America and
the Southeast region are the flea capital. As you move inland, however,
depending on the rainfall in a given year, it can be OK or get very horrid at