As a dog owner, one of the more shocking experiences you can have is finding an infestation of little bloodsucking insects clinging to the side of your pup.
Fleas and ticks can be one of the more surprising and gross ailments you face on your pet parenting journey. Tiny external hitchhikers, these parasites have no problem jumping onto your dog and burrowing into their fur to make their new home.
Although small, these parasites can cause health complications that range from mild irritation to some serious blood-borne illnesses and should be taken care of immediately once discovered.
If your dog has fleas or ticks, don’t panic! They are one of the most common medical issues dogs deal with, and although a little concerning, it is something that can be dealt with quickly and safely once identified.
What are fleas and ticks?
Fleas and ticks are small wingless insects categorized as parasites. They fall into this category because they survive on the blood of their host, making the host their new home until they die. These insects latch onto animals such as mammals and birds to survive and reproduce. If left untreated, fleas and ticks could result in an infestation as they reproduce and live on your dog.
A single female flea can lay 40 to 50 eggs a day and lay thousands in their life cycle! Although tiny, they can carry a powerful, infectious bite that causes irritation or blood-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease or rocky mountain spotted fever.
How do dogs get fleas/ticks?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question can be as simple as taking your dog for a walk. Most dogs pick up fleas and ticks during their normal day-to-day activities, such as a trip to the local park or hanging out in your backyard playing with other dogs. Although small, these little creatures have a big jump and are able to hop onto your pet from a distance.
It can be difficult, if not impossible, to entirely prevent your dog from ever encountering fleas or ticks, which is why preventive solutions are imperative for keeping your dog happy, healthy, and parasite free.
How can I tell if my dog has fleas?
Routinely checking your dog for medical issues is an essential part of pet ownership; this includes looking for fleas and ticks. Luckily, checking for these little parasites is a simple task and can be done at home.
Some signs that might indicate that your dog is suffering from fleas or ticks.
- Biting or scratching at their skin: When fleas bite an animal, they release saliva under the skin, which causes irritation leading to the dog scratching or biting the affected area.
- Red irritated areas: Due to the irritation caused by the parasites and your dog biting and scratching at the parasite, the skin around a flea or tick bite can become red and painful. These areas are known as hot spots.
- Irregular hair loss: As your dog tries to relieve itself of the irritation caused by the fleas and ticks, it will scratch and bite the area, causing patches of hair loss. If you notice patches of irregular hair loss, this might be an indication that your dog is dealing with these parasites.
The paper trick
If you notice signs of discomfort from your dog and you think it could be fleas or ticks. An easy trick you can do to tell is the paper trick.
For the paper trick, all you need is a flea comb and a piece of white paper.
After getting your dog comfortably situated, take the piece of white paper and hold it under the section of your dog you are going to check. Then run the flea comb through your dog’s fur over the piece of paper, looking for any small black specks that could resemble dirt.
If you see these black specks on the paper, take the specks and place them onto another slightly damp piece of paper. If the specks are fleas, after a few moments, the specks will turn from black to a reddish color as the flees process the blood they have stored through their waste thus confirming that, unfortunately, your pup has fleas! If the specks remain dark and blackish, then it is most likely just dirt, and you have nothing to worry about.
How to treat your dog for fleas and ticks
While finding out your dog has fleas or ticks can be gross and concerning, there are quick, safe ways to treat your dog’s infestation.
The first thing you want to do is give your dog a bath. Run the bath with lukewarm water and wash your dog with any dog-safe shampoo you have. This will kill the fleas and ticks, not because of the active ingredients, but because of the lack of oxygen, the soap creates. If you are worried your normal shampoo will not get the job done there are dog shampoos specially formulated to kill flea and tick infestations such as Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo.
You want to make sure you thoroughly wash your dog, getting your pup as sudsy as you can – the more bubbles the better! Carefully massage your dog from head to tail for about 10 minutes to make sure you get all of the eggs and larva out of their coat before rinsing and drying your pup!
If it is a tick you are dealing with, here is a step-by-step guide to safely remove the tick from your dog.
If you need an immediate quick solution to your dog’s infestation, you can use accredited flea shampoo or administer a fast-acting flea treatment product.
How to prevent fleas and ticks in the future
The best way to deal with fleas, ticks, or mites is to put a stop to them before it even happens. Prevention is the best step in keeping your dog healthy and parasite-free.
There are numerous flea and tick preventatives that can stop these little hitchhikers before they find their way to your dog. With so many over-the-counter flea and tick products, it can be challenging to know which one is right for your dog.
We recommend consulting with your veterinarian when making this decision, as certain preventative medications. Here are a couple other preventive options you can use alongside parasiticides.
- Tick and flea collars: Preventative collars are a great and easy way to manage fleas and ticks for dogs not already dealing with an existing infestation. There are two types of collars: the first type releases a repellent odor that repels and kills fleas. The second type contains a chemical repellent that is slowly released into the sebaceous glands and hair follicles of your dog, spreading through their natural oils to provide continuous long-lasting prevention. Preventative collars can last up to 8 months, but it is always best to check the product for an accurate estimated expectancy.
- Topical treatment: Topical medications or “spot-on treatments” are a great preventative product that only has to be applied once a month! To apply your topical treatment, carefully part the fur on your dog’s neck above the shoulder blades and apply the full dosage to the visible skin. After applying, keep your dog away from other pets and children until the medicine has dried. Then repeat the process after the recommended amount of time for the product. For the best results of the product, do not wash your dog 24 hours before or after applying the drops.
- Oral medications: If the collar or topical drops are not what you are looking for, there are plenty of different kinds of oral flea and tick preventatives you can choose from, and application is as simple as giving your dog a treat. Oral preventatives work by absorbing into your dog’s bloodstream or tissue fluids affecting the fleas when they bite the host, and can start to take effect as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion. Most oral preventatives are applied every 30 days, but it is important to check the length of effectiveness of the product.
- All-natural spray: If you are looking for an all natural solution there are essential oil sprays you can create can help with flea and tick prevention for dogs although they might not be as effective as the preventatives listed above
Even when we’re proactive with our pet’s care, the unexpected still happens from time to time. That’s why Pumpkin Pet Insurance plans help cover the cost of eligible veterinary care bills when your pet gets sick or hurt – helping you keep your dog in tip-tail shape.