Fleas, Ticks & Your DogTags: fleas, parasites, prevention, ticks
Ticks and fleas both pose serious threats to your dog’s health. Fortunately, infestations can be easily prevented with simple at-home treatments.
Adult fleas are wingless insects that feed on the blood of other animals. Although they are tiny in size, usually smaller than a sesame seed, their large back legs allow them to jump great lengths. Once they have latched onto an animal’s fur, they bite into the skin and suck up blood.
The real danger arises when fleas reproduce, as females can lay 30-50 eggs per day! These eggs drop to the ground within 8 hours, and 2 days later the flea larvae hatch and hide in in dark places on the ground, on carpets, and in upholstery. In about a week, the larvae spin a cocoon to become pupae. Once they develop into adult fleas, they jump onto an animal host and continue the cycle. This means it’s easy for a couple of fleas to evolve into a full-fledged infestation.
Ticks are wingless parasites that live on the blood of other animals. These creatures have a built-in feature called a Haller’s organ, which senses heat, carbon dioxide, and other stimuli that allow them to locate potential animal hosts. When a tick finds a victim, it latches on and feeds on the animal’s blood.
It is important to check your dog for ticks regularly, especially if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors in areas where there are woods or tall grasses. If you find a tick, it is crucial to remove it immediately, as the longer a tick is attached to its host, the greater the chance of it transferring a disease. To remove a tick, put on gloves and use tweezers to grasp the exposed section of the tick’s body. Gently pull until the tick lets go. Do not crush, burn, or suffocate the tick, because these actions could spread infection and bacteria. Instead, dispose of the tick by wrapping it in several tissues and flushing it down the toilet.
Controlling Fleas and Ticks
The best way to control a flea infestation is to prevent it. Recent developments in parasite control medication have made it easy to eliminate fleas on pets as well as prevent future infestations. Your veterinarian can recommend the right product for your pet. Additionally, daily vacuuming and frequent washing of your pet’s bedding will greatly reduce your home’s flea population.
As for ticks, many of the medications that prevent flea problems also guard against ticks. If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, combine preventative medication with daily tick checks. Clearing spots in your backyard where ticks hide, including brush and long grasses, will also help decrease your dog’s risk of getting a tick.
If fleas or ticks do manage to make a home of your pet, you will have to use a product that kills or repels these parasites. Your veterinarian can suggest the best plan of action. This could include once-a-month topical treatments, increased use of sprays, powders, dips, shampoos, and collars that combat fleas, and oral or injectable medication. Keep in mind, it is normal to see live fleas or ticks on a pet immediately after a topical treatment, shampoo, or other product is applied. The parasite has to fully absorb the product before it can be effective, which can take up to a few days.