Even though we are near the end of summer, we here in Tulsa are still seeing the biting bugs that most aggravate our four-legged friends: fleas and ticks. Here is the information you need to arm yourself and your pup against fleas and ticks to conquer the problem before it begins!
Fleas may well be the most aggravating external parasite a dog will encounter. Only dogs who live in extreme locales—sunny, arid climates or excessively cold environments—are likely to escape the exasperating itch-scratch cycle brought on by flea bites.
Fleas don’t actually live on dogs—they just hop on for a meal of blood when they want to feed—so a little detective work is necessary to establish their presence. Stand your dog on a white towel or piece of paper and run a brush or comb through his coat. If small black flecks fall onto the white area, wet them to see if they turn red. Any flecks that turn red are so-called flea dirt. In other words, it’s the blood the flea excretes after feeding on your dog.
To rid your dog of fleas, make an appointment with the Mobile Pet Vet to determine the product that is best for your pet. There are so many good flea control products available now that there is really no need for any dog to suffer the agony of flea bites. The products can be topical (applied to the dog’s skin) or given in pill form. Some of the products control ticks and other parasites as well. The best product for your dog depends on both the climate in your area and the lifestyle of your dog. A dog who spends a lot of time outdoors or playing in water may need a different product than that used for a dog who spends most of his time inside the home.
Here are the top three products for flea control for your dog:
- Program: Program contains a chemical called lufenuron. This chemical, given in pill form, works by sterilizing female fleas that bite the dog, thus preventing their eggs from hatching and breaking the flea life cycle usually within two months of use. Program is safe, effective, and easy to give, but its drawback is that the flea must bite the dog to be affected.
- Frontline: Frontline contains a chemical called fipronil and is applied topically between the dog’s shoulder blades and kills fleas for up to three months. It’s safe for use on puppies as young as ten weeks and dogs who are taking other medications. Fipronil works by collecting in the skin’s oil-producing glands and wicking back out with the coat. It’s a good choice for dogs who are bathed frequently or otherwise spend a lot of time in the water.
- Advantage: The active ingredient in Advantage is called imidacloprid. Applied to the skin over the back, it kills adult fleas on contact and is effective for up to a month. Like Frontline, it’s safe for use on puppies as young as ten weeks of age and dogs who are taking other medications.
Never use topical flea control made for dogs on cats!!!
Eight Ways to Fight Fleas in Your Home
If you’ve seen fleas on your dog, chances are there are more in your house. Try these tips to rid the fleas from your dog’s environment:
1. Eliminate fleas on your dog through grooming and medical treatment.
2. Vacuum at least once a week, being extra thorough in the areas where your dog frequents. Remove the vacuum bag after each use, seal it, and throw it into an outside garbage container.
3. Wash your dog’s bedding once a week. If your dog sleeps on a bed that is difficult to wash, keep it covered with a blanket or a sheet and wash that every week. Roll the sheet or blanket up as you remove it, so fleas and their eggs are contained. Regularly wash your dog’s collar and plush toys.
4. Keep floors free of clutter. Don’t give fleas places to hide from your attempts to get rid of them!
5. Consider keeping some rooms off-limits to your dog to reduce problem areas.
6. Treat severe infestations with flea control products. Schedule an appointment with the Mobile Pet to determine the best products for your particular situation.
7. Rid your yard of fleas. Concentrate mostly on shady areas because fleas don’t like sunlight. Remove wet leaves, grass clippings, and other moist vegetation, which is where fleas live.
8. Spray your yard with a commercial insecticide. (Be sure to limit your dog’s exposure to the yard for 24 hours after application.)
Just as nasty as fleas are ticks. Ticks belong to the arachnid family and are related to spiders (they even have eight legs!). Using their sharp mouthpieces, ticks attach themselves to a dog’s skin, usually around the head, neck, ears, or feet, and make a meal of the dog’s blood. That’s bad enough, but some ticks also transmit Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. And a large number of ticks feeding on one dog can cause severe anemia or tick paralysis.
Tick season is spring and summer, but any time your dog is outdoors or in a heavily wooded area, you should examine him for these nasty creatures. Don’t touch the tick with your bare hands—you might contract Lyme disease yourself. Wear gloves and part the dog’s coat to look closely at the skin. Ticks can be easy to miss, especially on dark-colored dogs.
To remove a tick, grasp it at the head with tweezers. Pull slowly but firmly to dislodge it without leaving any part of it behind. After the tick is removed, clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol, and apply a topical antibiotic ointment. Never hold a lit match to the tick or attempt to smother it with nail polish, petroleum jelly, kerosene, or gasoline: You will cause more damage to your dog than you will to the tick!
Many products can help repel or kill fleas and ticks. Dogs can also be vaccinated for Lyme disease if there is a risk of infection as determined by a veterinarian. If you live in Tulsa or the surrounding areas, make an appointment today with the Mobile Pet Vet to determine which flea and tick protection products are best for your dog.