Dog Flea and Tick Prevention
Why is it so important to prevent fleas and ticks on my dog?
Rising seas, hotter temperatures, and more fleas and ticks…all have been attributed to climate change. As people and animals adapt to changing patterns in the natural world, it’s good to understand what we are fighting against. Any number of fleas and ticks in your environment poses a risk to the health of your dog. These parasites feed on blood and spread disease.
Fleas are responsible for spreading tapeworms and when dogs are allergic to flea bites, fleas can cause allergy dermatitis in dogs. Tick-bourne diseases include Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, canine ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, Bartonella, and hepatozoonosis. Tick bites can even pass some of these diseases to humans. Kidney disease can result from untreated Lyme disease. Hepatozoonosis, which is often fatal, can be contracted when a dog unwittingly eats an infected tick.
Fortunately, measures can be taken to prevent fleas and ticks from biting the members of your family. Vigilance is the key and prevention is the best medicine. Your veterinarian is the General in your family’s battle against these blood-sucking parasites! Please talk to your veterinarian about potential threats in your dog’s environment and routine.
How do I know if my dog has fleas or ticks?
The most obvious indicators of fleas and ticks are sightings of the enemies themselves. Fleas and ticks are dark in color. Fleas, and some ticks, are about the size of the head of a pin. Other ticks are significantly larger than a pin head, especially after they’ve eaten and their bodies have swollen with blood. Flea droppings and flea eggs are also visible to the naked eye, as they appear as grains of dirt or sand in your dog's fur: droppings are dark brown and eggs are white.
Other signs of flea infestation on dogs are persistent scratching or biting at the skin, loss of hair, scabby or red spots on the skin, pale gums, allergic dermatitis, and tapeworms (segments of which look like grains of rice on your dog's stool, backside, and bedding). Symptoms of tick bites in dogs are irritated or infected skin, loss of blood, anemia, tick paralysis, and any of the symptoms associated with the diseases that ticks spread.
Symptoms of Fleas on Dogs:
- Irritated or infected skin
- Hair loss
- Pale gums and lips
- Flea dirt (droppings)
- Flea eggs
- Blood loss
- Allergy dermatitis (allergy to flea saliva)
Symptoms of Ticks on Dogs:
- Irritated or infected skin
- Blood loss
- Tick paralysis
- Lethargy [1, 2, 4, 5]
- Malaise 
- Loss of appetite [2, 3, 4]
- Pale gums 
- Coughing 
- Labored breathing 
- Fever [1, 2, 3, 6]
- Limping 
- Lameness [1, 2]
- Loss of muscle control 
- Neurologic signs, such as wobbliness [4, 6]
- Joint pain or swelling [1, 2, 4, 6]
- Swollen lymph nodes [1, 4, 6]
- Vomiting 
- Diarrhea 
- Dark urine 
- Jaundice 
- Heart abnormalities 
- Low blood platelets [2, 3]
- Seizures 
( Lyme disease,  anaplasmosis,  canine ehrlichiosis,  Rocky Mountain spotted fever,  babesiosis,  Bartonella; Hepatozoonosis is indicated by malaise, pain, fever, muscle atrophy, and anemia.)
Our veterinarians can show you how to check your dog regularly for fleas and ticks. Pets should be checked daily, especially if they have spent time outdoors. You can ask your vet to examine your dog for these parasites at each regular exam. If you or your vet discover the presence of parasites, the doctor will recommend effective ways to safely remove them from your dog and his or her environment—both in the house and in the yard.
How can my vet help prevent my dog from getting fleas and ticks?
The single best prevention against fleas and ticks, and the diseases they can pass along, is to control the parasite population in your dog’s environment. They lurk in the grass and bushes, waiting for an opportunity to engage your pet. Be sure to keep your bushes trimmed and your grass cut to decrease the territory where fleas and ticks can regenerate. Your veterinarian can recommend yard treatments to help keep the enemies at bay.
Next comes armor for your dog. The doctor can recommend topical, oral, or wearable flea and tick prevention that is pet safe and is best for your dog’s size and lifestyle. Medicated shampoo or dips may also help to battle infestations, but let your doctor determine their use as some chemicals may be too strong for puppies and mothers who are pregnant or nursing. The vet may also suggest vaccination against Lyme disease if that is appropriate for your dog.
Your veterinarians at Northeast Animal Hospital may not be able to solve climate change, but they know how to take control of fleas and ticks, and they can help prevent and treat the diseases they bear. Flea and tick prevention for your dog…for a welcome change!