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Dog Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks can be real pests for you and your pet, but with the appropriate preventative care, they are easy to keep away.

How can you tell if your dog has fleas & ticks?

There are a number of ways to tell if your dog has fleas. One of the most obvious is seeing live, adult fleas! Another big sign your dog may have picked up some hitchhikers is that your dog will typically begin to scratch or bite at his/her skin and coat excessively. Fleas like to congregate at the base of the tail, or up on the neck under a collar, so these are often areas you will see your dog scratch (but they can be anywhere). Some dogs are allergic to the saliva the fleas leave on their skin causing an intensely itchy reaction. This is called Flea Allergy Dermatitis. Fleas feed on blood, so the waste they produce is composed of blood as well. Fleas can leave behind “flea dirt” on your dog’s skin and in his/her fur. This flea dirt looks like black, pepper-like particles. If you notice these on your dog but are unsure if it’s flea dirt, place some flea dirt on a white paper towel and wet it. The flea dirt should leave red marks on the paper towel. Ticks are found in what we call a “tick check”. Ticks are sneakier than fleas and we need to search for them. Each day, run your hands all over your dog’s skin from nose to tail. Ticks are smaller, but become larger when engorged. The tick will feel like a small bump and could be anywhere from the size of a small screw head to the size of a dime.

How do you prevent fleas & ticks in dogs?

Fleas and ticks are easily prevented with an appropriate veterinary parasite prevention product. There are a variety of options from oral medications to topical liquids applied to the skin. Parasite prevention products are most often given monthly to remain effective, but one product (for fleas and ticks) remains effective for 3 months. This product is called Bravecto. With the use of Bravecto, ticks attach and are then killed and easily brushed away. It is important to continue doing “tick checks” even when using a tick preventative.

What are the treatment options for ticks in dogs?

Ticks are removed by grasping them tightly as close to the point of attachment (the skin) as possible. Ticks should be pulled out firmly and straight (unless using a “tick twister” – available in veterinary hospitals). This helps avoid the head remaining attached while the body is removed, which can cause problems like infection or pathogen transmission. Various pathogens, including the catalyst for Lyme Disease, can be transmitted from a tick to your dog after 24-48 hours of attachment, so this is why daily tick checks are so important. If you find a tick on your dog but are unsure how long it was attached, we recommend doing a 4DX text. This involves drawing a small amount of blood that is tested for tick-borne pathogens. This blood test should be performed 6-8 weeks after you find the tick attached to your dog.

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