Flea & Tick Prevention: Vet Q&A
How To Protect Your Dog From Fleas And Ticks
Many dog owners want to know how to protect their dog from ticks and fleas at all ages, 365-days a year.
While flea and tick prevention measures should be taken year-round, the risk of bites and infestations increases in the warmer months. Depending on the climate where you live, you may be entering “flea and tick season” in late spring.
With that in mind, we talked to Dr. Zeitlin in West Palm Beach, FL to get a vet’s answers to some common flea and tick questions.
What's the difference between fleas vs. ticks on dogs?
Both fleas and ticks are small parasites, barely visible to the naked eye. Fleas are wingless insects with long legs that allow them to jump and move quickly. Fleas typically stick to one host during their lifetime, and because of how quickly they can hatch and multiply, flea infestations are common. A tell-tale sign your dog has fleas is if you can see flea feces, aka "flea dirt" left on their fur.
Ticks are part of the arachnid family and are commonly found in wooded areas. Ticks are attracted to warm body temperatures, motion, and carbon dioxide that pets exhale, making dogs especially prone to tick bites and tickborne diseases.
Fleas and ticks both latch and feed onto the blood of mammals, carrying bacterial diseases (like Lyme disease) that are harmful to dogs and humans alike. Both leave small, swollen marks on the skin.
How do I keep my dog from getting fleas?
Many dog parents want to know how they can prevent their dog from getting fleas. After all, dogs are more likely to bring these pesky parasites in from the outside, so it's important to clean your pet's bedding and any surface they lay on frequently, like blankets, cushions, carpets, and couches. Be sure to dispose of vacuumed dirt right away, as flea eggs can hatch and multiply while still in the vacuum canister.
If your home has a yard, you can keep ticks off of dogs by treating the lawn with fleas and tick lawn care as a form of pest control. Mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and keeping brush cleared will surely help prevent ticks and fleas from living on your property (and your pooch), especially if you live in a wooded or humid area.
How do I protect my puppy from fleas?
To prevent fleas on your pet, it is best to start with preventative medicine. Your veterinarian can recommend specific brands and products, most of which come in the form of chewable pills, topical treatments, and flea collars. Some medications may kill fleas and ticks with combined heartworm prevention.
Puppies are curious animals, learning their environment for the first time. Because of this, they may be more likely to spend time in places they shouldn't be, and possibly bring outside pests in. You can control fleas by using a preventative medicine and cleaning dirt in the house regularly.
What should I use for fleas and ticks on my dog?
Getting rid of fleas and killing ticks are not fun tasks. Flea and tick prevention is not always fool-proof, and sometimes you can't stop fleas and ticks from showing up in your home.
The best way to remove fleas is by using a flea comb through your dog's fur and disposing of the brushed out contaminants. After flea removal, follow up with a flea removal shampoo and give your pooch a much needed flea bath.
To remove ticks, first check your dog's skin, particularly in between their toes and under their arms. If you find a tick, be sure to use a tweezer to securely remove the ticks head from its body. Remove any remaining parts of the tick and clean the area with an antiseptic wipe.
Can indoor-only pets get fleas?
Yes, feral cats and wildlife such as raccoons and foxes can bring fleas into your untreated yard. Once established in the yard, they can easily be brought into the home by you or an untreated pet that is allowed outdoors.
If you have multiple pets, or dogs and cats in your household, it's important to treat both with the appropriate preventative medicine. If one pet gets fleas, it is extremely easy to soon have a whole infestation on your hands.
Is flea and tick prevention necessary year-round?
Yes, flea and tick prevention should be administered year-round. Fleas can lay dormant over the winter in cold climates but if they are established inside your home where it is warm they can still cause infestations on pets. Many species of ticks are very hardy and can remain active during the winter months.
My dog is still scratching even though I used flea prevention as directed by the veterinarian. Why isn’t it working?
Many dogs have flea bite sensitivity, an allergic-type response to the saliva of the flea. Although the fleas that were on the pup may have died the reaction can last sometimes up to 2 weeks. This excessive scratching in turn can lead to hair loss, scabbing and crusting of the skin, and secondary skin infections.
Can I use my dog's flea and tick prevention on my cat?
No, many insecticides that are in flea and tick prevention for dogs may not only make cats sick but in some cases cause death. It is important to only use cat-labeled preventions on cats.
If the accidental topical application of dog flea and tick prevention occurs, immediately bathe the cat using dish soap and water and then seek immediate veterinary care. If your cat ingests oral dog flea and tick prevention seek immediate veterinary care.
Can I get sick if my dog has fleas or ticks?
Yes, both fleas and ticks have the potential to transmit diseases not only to your pup but potentially to you as well. Potential infections include Lyme disease, cat-scratch disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
If you notice your canine is infected with fleas or ticks, you should first contact your vet. They will be able to guide you on the best course of action to take given your dog's health records. They may want to take your pup in for testing if you suspect they've come in contact with fleas and ticks to rule out any diseases that may have spread.
Help your dog have a healthy summer
Make sure you take care of your pet accordingly this summer. Dog insurance may be a good option for you if you live in an area that is prone to fleas and ticks year-round as a way to protect your dog from repeated infections or illness, and cat insurance too if you have an outdoor cat.
Check out Spot’s Preventive Care coverage options for a little extra cost per month, a type of pet insurance which can reimburse pet parents for preventive measures for fleas and Lyme disease (which can be carried by ticks).