Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs: How Not To Get Ticked Off All Year
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
Ah, summer time…Our thoughts turn to burgers, bonfires, fireworks and……fleas & ticks?
Wait, what? Yes, unfortunately it’s that time of year when we hear most about our beloved dogs being susceptible to getting attacked by fleas and ticks!
One of the big misconceptions among pet owners is that fleas and ticks are only a problem in the summer months. However, this is certainly not true. These annoying insects can attack an undeserving dog at any time of the year and professionals advise to be on the look-out for them year round.
In this blog, we will look at flea and tick prevention for dogs and how to treat them if they do run into a problem.
Signs Your Dog Has Fleas
There are a number of signs that your dogs has fleas:
• You spot flea droppings on your dog’s fur
• Sudden biting or excessive licking of the skin
• Loss of hair or bald patches
• Vigorous scratching
Should you spot any or all of these symptoms, it is best to contact your vet’s office right away for guidance.
My Dog Has Fleas – Now What?
If it has been confirmed that your dog has an infestation of fleas, it is time to launch the counter attack. Luckily there are several ways to approach the problem. So here’s some options of what you can do if your dog has fleas:
Over The Counter Products – There are many flea treatment products sold at pet stores, supermarkets etc. These items tend to be collars that the dog wears or topical sprays, powders or shampoos. These have some effect on getting rid of fleas or preventing them, but they are insecticide based products and aren’t really effective as long term solutions. Fleas can often regain a foothold even when using these over the counter remedies.
Prescription Medications – A more effective way to not only treat a dog with fleas, but also prevent an infestation is the use of medications available through your vet’s office. These products are designed to do much more than just kill fleas. They are also very effective at stopping flea growth at all stages of the life cycle. In addition, these treatments make it very difficult for fleas to return. Most of these medications last up to 30 days, while some (such as Bravecto) can protect your dog for up to 3 months.
The Flea Battle – The Next Steps
Getting rid of the fleas that are actually on the dog is a huge accomplishment, but the battle is not over. Now it’s time to clean up the environment that the dog was occupying during the infestation. Fleas and their eggs can wind up on furniture, carpeting and other areas of your home. It will be crucial to decontaminate your living space. Washing bedding and other fabrics as well as intensive vacuuming will play a big part in avoiding a return of the pesky critters. Keep in mind that it could take 4-5 months to successfully break the flea life cycle.
Keeping your dog on a year round flea prevention program is extremely beneficial when it comes to ridding your life (and your dog’s) of this harmful problem.
Ticks – Miniature Monsters
Another major insect that wreaks havoc on dogs is ticks. Ticks feed on the blood of mammals and both humans and dogs are subject to their attacks. Since they are looking for blood, ticks embed themselves deep into the skin and are very difficult to remove. The real danger with ticks is that they can carry Lyme disease, and depending upon where you live and the type of tick, carry other illnesses like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichia and tularemia.
Tick Bite Symptoms & Tick Borne Disease in Dogs:
Dogs can get ticks from being outdoors or from other animals. The good news is that your vet can supply a Lyme disease vaccination for your animal.
What to Do If You Detect Tick Bite Symptoms in Your Dog
Ticks are a serious health concern for dogs. If you suspect that your pet has ticks, here’s what to do:
Get to the vet immediately – The tick issue needs to be treated right away. The vet will recommend a series of blood work samples to be taken over a period of time to determine if your dog has contracted an infection. Potential diseases may take time to show up in your pet’s lab report, so a few samples of blood work is necessary to thoroughly check for an infection.
The ticks must be removed – This may be gross, but when people think that they have removed a tick from the dog’s skin, often the tick’s head remains embedded! Make sure you get professional help when removing ticks from your pet.
Prevention – Your vet can give you medications that will prevent another tick problem. Treatments can last from 30 days to 12 weeks, depending on the medication your veterinarian recommends, which usually lasts about 30 days. In addition, there is also a product called Bravecto, which is effective in preventing ticks for up to 12 weeks.
Both fleas and ticks are not only gross, but they can cause real harm. It’s hard to know what to do if your dog has fleas or ticks. Be on the look-out for tick bite symptoms in your dog. Get into the habit of thinking about avoiding these pests year round, not just in the summer. If your dog does get fleas or ticks, they can be treated and get back on the road to good health. Be sure to involve your veterinarian early.
Flea and tick prevention for dogs is the best strategy. As wise-old Ben Franklin said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Stay one step ahead of fleas and ticks. Your dog will love you for it!