Fleas and ticks can cause a variety of health problems for our canine companions. The best thing you can do is take regular preventive measures to protect your dog from these pesky parasites.
Signs your dog may have fleas can include flea dirt (small dark flakes), excessive itching or scratching, redness and inflammation, hot spots and pale gums. You may also see adult fleas on your dog’s coat and skin.
Adult ticks are often visible to the naked eye, so you may spot them on short-haired dogs. But with longer-haired dogs, it’s best to do a thorough inspection with a flea comb.
Ticks can transmit numerous diseases that are dangerous to dogs: Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, erlichiosis, hepatozoonosis and anaplasmosis are all contractable from ticks. Some of these deseases can be fatal if not treated swiftly.
Signs your dog has Lyme disease include depression, swelling of lymph nodes, swollen joints or lameness and loss of appetite. Erlichiosis can cause internal and external bleeding, while Rocky Mountain spotted fever induces fever and rashes on your dog. Hepatozoonosis, also induces fever, depression, weight loss, poor body condition, muscle pain, atrophy and weakness, mucus and pus discharge, and bloody diarrhea. Anaplasmosis causes fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, weight loss, bruising, joint pain, difficulty breathing, vomiting or diarrhea.
If you suspect your dog has any of these diseases, it’s critical to get him or her to a veterinarian immediately.
Fleas are insects that can start your dog scratching with one bite. They have exceptional jumping skills, leaping vertically up to seven inches to hop on a host to feed and lay their eggs. Females can lay up to 5,000 eggs in a lifetime. Depending on weather conditions (they thrive in warm, humid climates), the eggs take about three to five days to hatch. Then they enter their larval stage, in which fleas are so small they are invisible. Larvae feed on flea dirt and other organic debris. Once fully fed, larvae spin cocoons, thus entering the pupal stage. Pupae usually hatch within eight to nine days, but can stay dormant for up to six months. When they hatch from their cocoons, they are adult fleas. The entire lifecycle is anywhere from 16 days to 12 months.
Ticks are parasites that belong to the arachnid family (like spiders and mites) and live in wooded or grassy areas where they attach themselves to dogs walking by. Female ticks find hosts to feed, mate and lay eggs upon, while the males generally occupy hosts for mating purposes. Females can lay up to 1,000 eggs at a time. Once hatched, they enter their larval stage and feed on their host. Once full, they drop off their host and molt into their nymph phase, during which they look for a new host. With the onset of adulthood, they lay in wait in grass or bushes seeking to attach themselves to a new host. Like their flea counterparts, they prefer warmer climates, and generally require three hosts to complete a lifecycle.
Both fleas and ticks are small but dangerous. Fleas are ravenous and can consume 15 times their own body weight in your dog’s blood. A serious infestation can cause your dog to become anemic. It’s not uncommon for dogs to have sensitivity to flea saliva and just one bite can cause a severe allergic reaction, leading to painful and intense itching. Fleas also transmit a variety of diseases such as bartonella and typhus, as well as tapeworms.
Female ticks can consume more than 100 times their body weight in your dog’s blood, which can lead to anemia. Their bites may trigger allergic reactions, but even more dangerous are the diseases they can transmit.
Taking steps to prevent your dog from getting fleas and ticks is the best thing you can do to avoid having your dog experience severe discomfort and potentially suffer from serious illnesses. A regular monthly regimen using PetArmor® or PetArmor® Plus (for dogs living in highly infested areas) is a great way to keep your dog free from flea and tick infestations.
Should you see that your dog has fleas or ticks, PetArmor recommends: PetArmor Plus Shampoo to immediately eliminate fleas and ticks that you see. To protect your pet going forward, we recommend PetArmor® squeeze-ons be used once every month. Wait one week after treating with shampoo or spray to treat with a squeeze-on.
Often, when you see fleas there is a good chance that they may be in your environment as well.
Even the cleanest dog can have pinhead-sized fleas hiding within the coat, so it’s important to check for them regularly.
Fleas are intruders who can hitch a free ride into your home on your pet or even on you.
Here we’ll give you insider tips on how to kick fleas to the curb for good.
Just follow this checklist to turn your home into a flea free zone.
Many ticks are as small as a pinhead so they’re difficult to see. Don’t assume they’re not present if they’re not visible. Ticks prefer to attach close to the animal’s head, neck or belly. Start with the head, being sure to check the whisker area, alongside and under the snout. Then check in and around the ears before examining its belly, back and paws, including between the toes and tail. Gently comb the hair. If you come across a snag, it might be a tick. Do this gently so as not to pull the tick out with the comb and leave pieces behind.
If you find a tick attached to your skin, there's no need to panic. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.
How to remove a tick
Avoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible--not waiting for it to detach.
If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.
Not all ticks will trigger the localized erythema (redness) seen here, so they are often difficult to locate.
All ticks feed on blood and can spread disease. The important thing to know is that ticks live all over the country, so wherever you are, ticks are there, too.
American Dog Tick or Wood Tick: This tick is brown to reddish brown and is relatively easy to see from late March through early September, depending upon temperatures. It’s responsible for transmitting Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and canine tick paralysis.
Deer Tick or Blacklegged Tick: The deer tick is very small, resembling dark brown to black pepper grains and is primarily responsible for spreading Lyme disease. This tick is most active during summer, but adults can be active during the winter when temperatures rise above freezing.
Brown Dog Tick: This tick is found throughout the U.S. It’s unusual in that it can lay its eggs indoors. It’s responsible for causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Lone Star Tick: The female Lone Star tick is characterized by a white spot. These ticks can carry ehrlichiosis and tularemia.
While ticks can be found anywhere in the U.S., different species of ticks inhabit different geographical areas. Ticks are most prevalent in the spring, especially after a wet and mild winter. Deer ticks are so hardy, they’ve been found active in the winter when temperatures rise above freezing.