Tick and flea bites can cause your dogs discomfort and have them itching and scratching frequently, but are they harmful? In their article "Home Remedies for Dogs with Fleas," Shanna Freeman and Dr. William Fortney write, “Some dogs are extra-sensitive to flea saliva. One bite may be enough to bring on the unbearable itching of flea-allergy dermatitis (FAD)." These little critters can also make your pet susceptible to bacterial infections and hot spots, which can spread and become difficult to control. According to the National Pest Management Association Inc., fleas can even transfer tapeworms to pets and cause anemia.
HOW DOES MY DOG GET TICKS AND FLEAS?
In his interview for WebMD, flea and tick expert Professor Michael Dryden says that it can happen when a flea-infested animal roams around your neighborhood carrying flea eggs or female fleas. The latter may leave eggs scattered around your area. “And then those eggs developed into adults and those fleas jumped onto your pet,” he explains. Fleas are known to jump over six feet and latch themselves onto any furry pet they can find.
Dryen says a female flea can lay as many as 40 to 50 eggs per day--that's 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. And these eggs can hatch in 1 to 10 days. “Over 4,000 eggs are deposited in cracks and crevices along floors, behind dog cages, or even ceilings,” Dryden says in his research entitled "Biology and Control of Ticks Infesting Dogs and Cats in North America." And once they hatch, they can survive for weeks without feeding while waiting for a suitable host.
HOW CAN I GET RID OF THESE PESKY PARASITES?
If your fur baby only has a few (thank God!), you can remove them manually. Professor Dryden recommends grasping the flea or tick as close to the skin as possible with a tweezer and then extracting the parasite using slow, steady pressure. “The tick should not be crushed, twisted, or jerked out of the skin,” he warns. Doing any of these could detach the tick’s body, leaving the head still latched onto your pet’s skin, which could in turn cause infections.
According to Jenna Stregowski, RVT, on the other hand, there are three effective ways to eliminate fleas. In her article "All About Fleas on Dogs" she includes:
1. Spot-on topical treatments like Advantage and Frontline
“Typically, the spot-on treatments need to be applied monthly,” she says. It can kill adult fleas, and some even have ingredients that can sterilize fleas. They are usually water-resistant, which means you can bathe your dog a few days after the application.
2. Oral flea prevention or treatment
This releases chemicals into your dog’s blood and can kill the parasites once they bite your dog. It should also be given once a month, and a dog should not be given more than one type of oral treatment at a time.
3. Shampoos, dips, and topical sprays
These might not last as long as the previous treatments mentioned, but they can instantly remove fleas. “Flea shampoos, dips, and sprays should not be used in conjunction with topical spot-on treatments, as they may cancel each other out or even cause chemical toxicity,” she warns.
HOW CAN I ELIMINATE TICKS AND FLEAS FROM THE ENVIRONMENT?
This can be done by destroying tick and flea habitats. Dryden suggests “cutting or removing grass, weeds, and brush piles between fences and along property lines.” Acaricides (or pesticides used to kill ticks and fleas) can also be sprayed into cracks and crevices around your dog's cage or sleeping area, along the boards of the ceiling, and other areas your pet frequents. “If ticks continue to be a problem, restricting a pet’s access to tick-infested environments, such as tall grass, weeds, and forested areas, may be necessary."
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(Photos by LOLren, CMDrGravy, and breakmake respectively via Flickr Creative Commons)