Flea and Tick Control for Dogs
By Diane Morgan
Fleas and ticks are external parasites, meaning they can be found anywhere on the outside of the body, but they typically settle down on the head, neck, rump, and underside. Parasites negatively impact your dog’s health. In all cases, the sooner the parasites are eliminated—or prevented—the better off your dog will be.
Fleas are bloodsucking wingless insects. Once one lands on your dog, it can start sucking blood within minutes, and flea bites can occur in such numbers as to cause anemia in a puppy.
Fleas have specialized mouthparts to pierce the skin and siphon blood. The protein in their saliva causes itching in most dogs, and some dogs are so hypersensitive that they will itch all over from one bite. Other dogs may not scratch at all, fooling their owners into thinking they are not infested. However, a single fleabite can transmit tapeworm or cause an allergic dog to develop flea allergy dermatitis, the most common skin disease in dogs.
Even if you don’t see any fleas, if you observe flea dirt (black specks), fleas are present. This is where a flea comb comes in handy! Careful combing can identify and remove fleas without chemicals. The Magic Coat® Professional Series Flea Catcher Comb
has tightly placed teeth that don’t allow fleas or their eggs (or even ticks) to escape.
The best place to flea-comb your pet is outside. Here’s how to do it:
1. Before starting, fill a deep container with hot, sudsy water. Begin combing at the ears and work backward. Give the head, neck, rump, and underside special attention.
2. As you work, keep checking the comb for fleas. If you find them, pull them out of the comb and dunk them in the water to drown them.
3. After you’re done, wait a few minutes and then begin combing again. The remaining fleas were lying low but will soon start moving around.
4. When you’re finished, discard the water down the toilet.
5. Comb your dog every day until the fleas are gone.
A distant relative of the flea is the tick, an arachnid. Tick bites transmit babesiosis, Colorado tick fever, ehrlichiosis, hepatozoonosis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, tick paralysis, and tularemia.
Ticks are active whenever the temperature rises above 45°F. However, ticks don’t cause itching like fleas, they don’t scamper around, and they don’t leave feces everywhere. That’s part of the reason why these dangerous pests are easy to overlook.
As with fleas, one bite can make your dog sick, so check your pet after every outdoor excursion. Ticks are usually found on the ears and head, areas difficult for a dog to reach. Contrary to what is sometimes said, ticks don’t burrow beneath the skin. They are always visible, although some are very tiny even when engorged. However, transmission of disease doesn’t usually start until the tick has been attached for 36 to 48 hours, so you have time for removal before damage is done.
To remove a tick, use tweezers to grasp it by the body and pull straight out. It’s possible that the mouth-part might get left behind, but it should fall out later naturally.
FLEA AND TICK CHEMICAL PREVENTIVES
If you live in a flea- or tick-infested area, ask your vet for the best chemical preventive. Don’t combine different flea and tick products without your vet’s permission—it can be dangerous. Some products are not recommended for puppies or for pregnant or nursing dogs. (And never put a dog product on your cat!)