Fleas and ticks are parasites that feed and live on mammals’ skin and fur. Infestation with these tiny bugs can lead to more than a scratchy dog. Keep reading to learn why are fleas and ticks dangerous for your family and what you can do to control them
Fleas – The Itchy Insects
Fleas are insects that thrive on dogs’ and cats’ fur. The saliva of these small bugs is a common cause of allergies in dogs, which may lead to leading to chronic itchy and dry skin. Besides, dogs who suffer from flea allergies tend to have secondary bacterial infections. On top of that, fleas can transmit bacterial and parasitic diseases in dogs.
The four species of dog fleas found in North America are:
- Pulex simulans (a flea of small mammals)
- Ctenocephalides felis (the cat flea)
- Ctenocephalides canis (the dog flea)
- Echidnophaga gallinacea (the poultry sticktight flea)
The “cat flea” is most commonly found in dogs and it may cause severe irritation and flea allergy dermatitis in dogs.
Ticks – The Blood-Sucking Arachnids
Most people believe that ticks are insects, but they are arachnids like mites, scorpions, and spiders. There are two types of ticks; “hard” ticks (Ixodidae) and “soft” ticks (Argasidae). Hard ticks have a tough structure behind the mouth, which seems to be its “head”. Soft ticks lack this structure and resemble a raisin in its shape. Soft ticks are not commonly found on pets as they prefer to feed on birds, bats, and other animals.
There are over fifteen species of ticks in North America, but only a few infest domestic animals regularly. The four ticks most commonly found in pets are:
- American dog tick
- Lone star tick
- Deer or Blacklegged tick
- Brown dog tick
How Are Dogs Infested With Fleas and Ticks?
Dogs become infested with fleas and ticks through contact with other animals or contact with fleas and ticks in the environment. Fleas can jump from host to host or from the environment onto the host.
How to tell if your dog has fleas and ticks?
Generally, fleas can be seen moving on the surface your dog’s skin. Fleas usually are dark copper colored and with the size of the head of a pin.
An excellent way to tell if your dog has fleas is looking for “flea dirt” or the fleas’ feces. Flea dirt looks like dark specks of pepper scattered on the surface of your dog’s skin. You may also be able to observe flea eggs which look like white specks in your dog’s fur.
Signs that your dog has fleas:
- Itching and scratching
- Presence of flea dirt
- Presence of flea eggs
- Hot spots on the skin
Ticks can also cause itching and are usually visible on your dog’s skin. When inspecting your dog for ticks make sure that you look between your dog’s toe because ticks tend to hide there.
How to Prevent and Control Fleas and Ticks on Dogs?
Several spot-on treatments can prevent and control fleas and ticks in pets. Spot-on treatments such as Fipronil (Frontline) are applied on the back of your dog and can protect them for up to three months. Spot-on flea and tick treatments work best when used as directed by your veterinarian.
Some pills can help control fleas and ticks in dogs for up to four months. A veterinary prescription is needed to buy these pills.
The best way to prevent fleas and ticks is by keeping your dog in a clean and dry environment. Fleas and tick thrive in humid areas, so it is essential that you keep your dog’s sleeping area as clean and dry as possible.
How to Remove a Tick From Your Dog?
- Wear gloves while removing the tick to avoid contact with your skin.
- Grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible, but be careful not to pinch your dog’s skin.
- Pull outward in a straight, steady motion, making sure that you have removed the entire tick since anything left behind could lead to an infection.
- Clean your dog’s skin and the tweezers with alcohol. Wash your hands.
- Save the tick in a small container with isopropyl alcohol—you will need to bring this to the vet if your dog shows any sign of tick-borne illness.