March is Flea & Tick Prevention month, and we’re here to share some tips straight from Tory about how to keep your pup happy and healthy as flea and tick season starts to take foot!
Fleas and ticks are one of the top concerns for pet parents and can be an annoying part of your pet routine. They can also cause real health problems and concerns for your pup if left untreated. Ticks are a form of parasite that sit on the outside of the skin and feed off their host’s blood. They also come with a range of diseases that can cause serious harm for your canine companion.
Similarly, fleas are pests that feed off your pup’s blood in order to live and reproduce. These critters can also transmit a number of diseases and lead to serious health concerns. Fleas can spread easily, jumping onto your animal from objects and other animals, even if they’re a distance away.
Prevention is key. Fleas and ticks are a concern that will last for much of the year, so it’s important to know what to do if your dog gets these unwanted pests, and how to prevent them in the first place. Read on for what you need to know.
Prevention Matters: The Dangers of Fleas and Ticks
Not only are fleas and ticks a nuisance, but they also carry the more prevalent concerns of diseases and infections. These pests can transmit an array of diseases to our pets, and to us as well!
As a pet parent, being aware of the dangers of fleas and ticks on dogs is the first step to keeping your pup happy and healthy. Let’s take a closer look at some of the dangers of fleas and ticks for our furry friends.
The Dangers of Ticks
Ticks carry a multitude of infectious agents, including but not limited to the following:
- Lyme disease: The Black Legged Tick, or the Deer Tick, is most commonly known for transmitting Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a serious concern as it can result in lethargy, fever, lameness, limping, swelling and pain in the joints, and even kidney disease in serious cases.
- Canine Ehrlichiosis: This disease is caused by The Brown Dog Tick, The Lone Star Tick, and American Dog Tick. Canine Ehrlichiosis can result in adverse reactions like fever, lack of appetite, low blood platelets, unusual bruising, nose bleeds, anemia, and pain.
- Anaplasmosis: The Black Legged Tick is known for transmitting a disease called anaplasmosis. This disease is characterized by low blood platelets and bleeding disorders.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: This disease can be carried by two types of ticks: The American Dog tick and the Wood Tick. Characterized by fever, loss of appetite, low platelets, swollen lymph nodes, and joint pain, this condition is serious and should be addressed immediately. This condition can also lead to neurological effects, such as difficulty balancing and moving.
- Bartonella: This disease is commonly transported to cats and dogs from ticks, as well as scratches from other animals who have the disease.
- Babesiosis: This disease breaks down red blood cells, leading to lethargy, pale gums, dark urine, and even jaundice. It can be transmitted by ticks and by other animals who have the disease.
- Hepatozoonosis: Hepatozoonosis is an infection that occurs if your pup eats a tick that’s been infected with this disease. This disease can lead to pain, muscle wasting, moderate anemia, and fever. It can also be fatal in serious circumstances. This disease cannot be transferred to humans.
In addition to these diseases listed above, there are more and more diseases being discovered each passing season. Not only are the dangers of ticks serious, but the population of ticks is ever-growing. With colder winters decreasing, ticks are better able to survive, repopulate, and wreak havoc to our pups during the colder seasons.
Ticks can also easily attach to deer, mice, rodents, and other forest wildlife and traveling to rural areas where our pets are. Many people attribute the increase in ticks to the deer population, but mice and rodents are even more likely to be carriers of these pests.
The Dangers of Fleas
Fleas are another dangerous pest to be aware of. Fleas can cause severe pruritus (itching) leading to discomfort and skin infections. They can also carry tapeworms, which can lead to weight loss and irritation.
Dogs who have flea allergies can contract flea allergy dermatitis, anemia, scabs, and hair loss. Adult fleas can live for up to 12 months with the right food, and they can consume up to 15 times their own body weight in your dog’s blood. This can lead to anemia, especially in smaller breeds and puppies.
Puppies may have an underdeveloped number of red blood cells, which can also result in complications with fleas. It’s especially important to watch out for these pests on younger pups.
How Do Dogs Get Fleas and Ticks?
There are a few common ways your dog can encounter fleas and ticks.
First, deer, mice, and forest animals can bring ticks and fleas close to your home or local dog park, dropping them off in new areas where your dog spends their time.
Your dog can also get fleas and ticks from other pets. Both cats and dogs can spread fleas, especially as fleas can jump from one surface to the next.
The most common way your dog gets ticks and fleas, however, is from the grass. Ticks tend to live in tall, shaded areas of grass, especially during certain months of the year. Grassy areas, shaded areas, and land with lots of overgrowth and shrubbery can contain more ticks than flatter ground.
The absolute simplest answer? Your pup will get fleas and ticks if you don’t provide them with preventative protection — there are a multitude of over the counter flea and tick medications like Frontline® and Bravecto®, prescription-strength options like Simparica® and NexGard®, and even flea collars and tick collars.
How To Know If Your Dog Has Fleas or Ticks
If your dog has fleas, ticks, or an infection from one of these pests, there are a few key symptoms to look for.
The most common sign of fleas and ticks on dogs is itching. Fleas are especially attracted to dogs’ ears and the base of their tail. If you notice excessive itching in these areas, it may be time to check for fleas.
Use a flea comb to gently push the hair back on the belly and the inside of the thigh, and look for either the bugs themselves or flea dirt, which is a patchy black grime left behind by fleas.
Sometimes, even a single flea can cause serious itching if your pup has a flea allergy. Fleas and ticks are possible year-round, so be aware of these symptoms and use flea protection, even in the colder months.
7 Ways To Prevent Fleas and Ticks
Fleas and ticks are dangerous pests for our furry friends. Being prepared, learning to recognize the signs and symptoms, and understanding the dangers are critical to being able to take care of our pups.
Luckily, there are also ways to help prevent and treat fleas and ticks. Here are 7 ways to prevent fleas and ticks on dogs.
#1: Consider Store-Bought or Vet-Prescribed Medications
A wide variety of flea and tick preventatives are on the market from chews to sprays to topicals and more. Many are also now available over-the-counter, but it’s a good idea to speak to your veterinarian before starting a monthly flea and tick preventative.
Both oral and topical formulations exist. Before deciding which to ask your vet about, there are a few things to consider. If you have cats, it’s important to note that some flea and tick medications can be toxic for felines. Be sure to find one that is safe for cats if you have a feline-friendly household.
Similarly, if you have young children or other family members in the house, it’s important not to let them touch your pups while they have topical flea and tick medication on. These substances can be unsafe for children, so make sure you’re able to control when your child touches your pup when they have this medicine on.
Some tick and flea medicines can cause complications and seizures if your dog has a history of seizures. If your pup does have a history of seizures, it’s important to disclose this to your vet and find a medication that is safe for your furry friend.
The main takeaway? Ask your veterinarian about the best solutions for your specific pup(s) and your specific household.
#2: Try Natural Prevention Remedies
In addition to traditional medications to prevent fleas and ticks, there exist a wide range of “all-natural” flea and tick products. Please keep in mind that all-natural does not necessarily equally safe.
For example, garlic is often touted as an “all-natural” flea and tick preventative, but in large quantities, garlic can cause toxicity in dogs. Similarly, it’s important to stay away from products that use some types of essential oils, like lavender, which can be dangerous for dogs and cause more harm than good.
If you’re considering essential oils, rosemary oil is an excellent, safe option for your pup. The scent of rosemary can help repel insects, pests, and other critters from both your dog and your yard. You can even diffuse this oil in areas your dog hangs out in to help reduce the number of pests.
Many alternative preventatives do not have to go through the stringent testing required of traditional medications. If you consider using an alternative-type medication, look for third-party testing of the product in addition to any studies proving effectiveness.
#3: Perform Regular Inspections
Another tip for preventing fleas and ticks is to perform regular inspections on your pup. When you’re able to find fleas and ticks early, the damage can be drastically reduced. Some tick bites take days to transmit infections, too, so you can save yourself and your pup a lot of trouble by regularly checking them.
If you bring your pup home from the dog park, doggy daycare, training school, or anywhere they may interact with other animals and tall grass, it’s best to do a quick check for pests.
Fleas like to adhere to areas on your dog’s body where the skin is easy to get to. Check your pup’s belly, feet, ears, and any other areas that have less hair. Then check other areas by running your hand through to feel for any bumps and looking for any dark spots or unusual bite marks.
#4: Mow Your Lawn Often
If you let your dog stay in your backyard or front yard, mowing your lawn often and keeping it short can help, too. Ticks like long grass, shade, and overgrowth. While they can still inhabit shorter grass, mowing your lawn often can drastically reduce the number of ticks and pests your pup comes into contact with.
#5: Treat All Your Animals at the Same Time
If you do find fleas or ticks on one of your animals, it’s important to treat all of your animals at the same time. Pests can transfer easily from your pup to your kitten and then back to your pup! If you own more than one pet, treating them all at one time can help prevent cross-infestation!
In the same way, be sure to treat their environment at the same time too. Fleas and ticks can live in your home, on your furniture, and on your pup’s furniture for days. If you find pests on your dog, it’s important to treat these areas, too.
#6: Groom Your Pup Often
Grooming your furry friends may feel like a chore, but it can drastically reduce the dangers of fleas and ticks. These pests love overgrown areas, even when it comes to fur. Giving your dog a regular bath with pet-specific shampoo and visiting the groomer on a regular basis can help prevent these pests and help your dog stay clean, happy, and healthy.
#7: Make Regular Visits to Your Veterinarian
Regularly visiting a trusted veterinarian can support early detection, disease detection, prevntion, and overall wellness for your pup. If you notice changes in behavior or signs of tick or flea infestation, it can be a good idea to chat with your vet about what treatment is best.
Some diseases can be dangerous if they’re not treated properly, so your vet will know best about how to best treat your pup.
Keeping Your Pup Pest-Free
Whether you have an indoor pup or an outdoor pup, it’s important to keep them pest-free. Our tools and resources have everything you need to know about how to keep your furry friend healthy. From how to get rid of fleas and ticks to how to prevent worms, our guides have everything you need to know.