Ticks in cats: ear, ixodic and subcutaneous
Ticks can be found in the grass, water, soil, on the skin of birds and animals; they threaten the health of our pets every day. Ear, ixodic or itch ticks in cats – it doesn’t matter, you have to help your pet to get rid of them anyway. It would be useful to prevent your cat from catching them by protecting it with all available means.
Actually we’re going to disappoint you first: there is no magic vaccination against ticks in cats. Vaccination is immunity provocation performed by the introduction of attenuated virus into the body. The immune system produces antibodies that remain in the blood for some time. The vaccination itself makes it impossible to create preparation against ticks, because tick is not a microbe, but a parasite. Therefore, the only control measure is using insecticide-acaricides against ticks in cats.
Otoacariasis or ear mange
Tiny parasites are invisible to the naked eye, they feed on skin cells, dandruff and ear wax. Therefore this type of ticks can be found in cats’ ears quite often. They are not dangerous to humans, but can easily be transmitted from sick to healthy cats. Veterinarians suppose that half of all cats are infected with these parasites! The signs of ear ticks in cats are clearly visible: the pet is constantly scratching its ears, shaking its head, presses the ear to the head. If you look inside the ear, you may notice some dried blood clots that are similar to coffee crumbs. In neglected cases the pus from the ear is oozing, the ear surface has lots of scratches, ulcers and sores, the ear smells disgusting.
Ear ticks in cats may provoke allergic reactions, dermatitis, fungal and bacterial infections. When not cured timely the parasites clog the ear canal with their waste products, what may lead to otitis externa. At this stage some ear drops against ticks in cats can help, but when the eardrum and the inner ear are affected, the illness requires serious treatment. If you neglect the disease, the cat may lose its hearing or even die.
The most dangerous type of ticks in cats are ixodic ticks. These arthropods, blood-sucking parasites spread throughout the world, are extremely hardy and prolific. Only ten years ago, they lived only in the forests, but today they can be found in parks of metropolises and even in courtyards. Their activity period lasts from the first warming up to the first serious frost (in the cities they may be active even at zero temperature in winter).
Imago is an adult parasite, often with elongated body, eight legs and small head (sometimes the head is not visible at all). A male body is completely covered with a chitin shell, and a female body – only for one third. When a tick bites a cat, it rapidly grows in size, sometimes to the size of a large grape, filling its abdomen with blood. These are adult ticks who feed on humans, cats and dogs.
Female ticks dig deep into the skin and feed on their victim for a few days, their bites are the most dangerous. Males get their fill within an hour or two, so they usually don’t penetrate deeply into the skin. Ticks don’t cause serious harm, but they are carriers of many deadly diseases, so anti-tick collars for cats can save lives.
Haemobartonellosis is diagnosed when minute intracellular parasites are located in the erythrocytes slowly exhausting and killing blood cells. Symptomatic the disease manifests with anemia, fever, acute intoxication and cardiac failure. Without proper treatment a cat can die.
Tularemia is characterized by pathogens that are localized mainly in lymphoid tissues, slowly destroying them. The process affects the entire body, develops toxicity, sepsis, and when untreated – may cause death. This disease is dangerous to humans, the agent can penetrate the blood even through uninjured skin. Important: before you remove the tick from the cat’s skin, make sure you wear surgical gloves!
Theileriasis: unicellular parasites spread throughout the body with the blood, causing rapid deterioration in the health condition. The first symptoms are: sudden weakness, apathy, loss of appetite, labored breathing, anemia. Then the body temperature rises and fever begins that is followed by the heart and lungs problems. Almost all the cats die.
How to get rid of the parasite?
In case you notice a tick stuck into the cat’s skin, first or all you need to estimate how deeply it has penetrated into the skin. If the parasite managed to get fed to an impressive size and a swelling was formed around the place of bite, it would be better to contact your veterinarian. In this case, the tick has been feeding on the cat for several days and has stuck deep into the skin. If you try to pull the insect out you can damage its integrity, which increases the risk of contracting one of the diseases that this tick may carry. The doctor will show you how to remove a tick from the cat and will send it to the laboratory for testing and then will process the wound.
If the tick is not too large, when only a part of the head is visible and it is obvious that it didn’t manage to penetrate deep into the skin, you can try to remove it very carefully. But in any case it is forbidden to:
- pull it out in panic, trying to remove it out of sight immediately;
- grab the tick with your bare hands;
- pull the tick out with tweezers;
- wrap it with the thread;
- pour different liquids on the place of bite (in this case the tick just regurgitates its stomach contents into the wound, along with a myriad of bacteria).
The “popular” methods mentioned above are ineffective and cause damage to the parasite, which is dangerous not only for your pet, but for you too. Theoretically you can get the tick out with the help of threads and tweezers, but it is important to have enough experience in this field. If you don’t – then don’t try.
So, how to do it right? If a cat bitten by a tick, first nspect the parasite. Have something to grab in order to pull it out? Put on surgical gloves, gently take the tick with your fingers and slowly “unscrew” by turning in one direction and then in the other. Ignore the tips that you should twist only counterclockwise or vice versa – it’s untrue.
And what should you do when you can see the tick, but it is still too small for a finger grip? Act gently, stroke the tick with the forefinger in a circular motion, in the alternating direction. You should also put the cat on the whete sheet, as the tick will try to escape as soon as you remove it from the cat’s skin.
There is a special tool for removing ticks: a curved stick with a slot at the end. This slot is necessary to catch the parasite, and then gently rotate the stick until the tick detaches from the skin. Such a stick is an essential detail, a must-have for any cat owner!
It is highly desirable to carry the parasite to the laboratory for a test. After the test it will be clear whether the tick was dangerous or not. If for any reason it is impossible to carry out a lab test, the tick must be destroyed (it’s better to burn it). It is better to treat the wound with antiseptics and to monitor the condition of the skin around the bite. In this case any rash, inflammation, swelling, redness or itching would be an alarming sign.
Itch or subcutaneous ticks usually appear in the upper layers of the epidermis and hair follicles. As a rule, they choose places where the skin is softer and the coat isn’t very long. There are several types of subcutaneous ticks, many of which are dangerous or conditionally safe for humans. Ticks are very contagious! The treatment shall be appointed by a veterinarian after the accurate diagnosis.
Demodex cati is an extremely viable subcutaneous ticks species in cats. These parasites sometimes may live for years on the cat’s body without causing disease. Symptoms appear when the weakening of immunity: inflammation, redness and hair loss around the eyes, head and neck. This type of ticks is difficult to treat.
There may be also so-called itch ticks in cats (Notoedres cati). Among the symptoms there are: severe itching, hair loss, redness of the skin. Without treatment, all kinds of fungal and bacterial infections that thrive on damaged skin may develop.
Another subcutaneous tick type in cats is scabies type. Parasites are located in the ear, muzzle and neck area. The cat is severe scratched and some bleeding wounds are visible on the skin. The disease can lead to blood poisoning.
There is no need to get scared to ticks, because it is possible to protect your pet against them. Modern complex drugs are quite effective against all types of parasites, but they must be used regularly and timely.
Sprays need to be spread on the coat of the pet, avoiding eyes and muzzle area. It is important to make sure that the cat does not lick itself until the medicine dries, and even better to control it within a day after the application. Since it is quite difficult to do, sprays are not very popular.
Collars against ticks in cats are impregnated with an active substance, which gradually penetrates into the surface layer of the skin and/or into the blood. It is an effective tool, but strip collar poses a risk to the cat: when swallowed even a small piece can cause serious poisoning.
Drops against ticks are a favorite tool of most owners. The drug is applied to the skin between the shoulder blades once a month. There are almost no disadvantages except for hypersensitivity to the components of the drops.
Before use, carefully read the instruction, the contraindications, precautions and possible side effects. Choose a drug based on the general condition and your pet and its age.
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