Spring and summer are seasons when the lure of the great outdoors calls to us and our family pets. Unfortunately, they also ring in the full-blown season of fleas and ticks.
Whatever we do to keep our dogs healthy and protect them, it is almost impossible to keep them from meeting up with ticks and fleas whenever they go outside. And unfortunately, these parasites can have a serious effect on your dog’s health. There are big benefits to being consistent when protecting our dogs against these pesky parasites.
Preventing Fleas and Ticks in Dogs
First of all, there are numerous flea and tick preventatives on the market today that are safer and more effective than what was available 10 years ago. Our choices have grown exponentially over the years. However, you must always consider the safety of your dog when using a flea and tick preventative.
It is best to work directly with your veterinarian to decide on the right regimen that will fit your pet’s age, other health issues, and breed, as well as the environment you live or vacation in. Your vet will also consider whether you have more than one pup, have dogs that swim, or have young children in your household.
Options for flea and tick prevention products now include:
- oral medications and oral preventatives
- topical drops and topical treatment
- flea and tick collars
- sprays and wipes
- yard treatments
We used to recommend the organic sprays which, of course, we favored over the regular chemical sprays, but with the uptick (no pun intended) of tick diseases and tick population in recent years, the more chemical-filled sprays seem to be more effective than the organic ones.
Tick Bites Cause Nasty Illnesses in Dogs
Ticks can cause infection, abscesses, paralysis, and even death. This is why tick prevention is key. In addition, ticks are the host of several debilitating diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a bacterial disease spread through the bite of an infected tick. Most people who get sick with RMSF will have a fever, headache, and rash. RMSF can be deadly if not treated early with the right antibiotic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) warns that vaccines are not available for most of the tick-borne diseases that dogs can get. These tick species and diseases can be very difficult to recognize and are easily misdiagnosed due to varied and vague symptoms. Treatments for tick-borne illnesses are also lengthy and can be very costly.
Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer for the AKC, suggests that during tick season, in addition to using a preventative tick treatment often, it is critical to do a daily tick check on your dog. A tick bite will take about 12 hours to transmit the bacteria anaplasma and 24 to 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease. So it’s very important to locate and carefully remove ticks from your dog as quickly as possible.
Removing a Tick From Your Dog
Using a pair of tweezers is the most common and effective way to remove a tick. But not just any tweezers will work. Most household tweezers have large, blunt tips. You should use fine-point tweezers, to avoid tearing the tick and spreading possible infections into the bite area.
Spread your dog’s fur, then grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Very gently, pull straight upward, in a slow, steady motion. This will prevent the tick’s mouth from breaking off and remaining embedded in the skin. People often believe it’s the head of the tick that embeds in the skin. But ticks don’t have heads, in the conventional sense, so what gets inserted into your dog is known as “mouth parts.”
Another option that is even easier to master is the use of a a tick control removal hook. It’s especially useful if you live in a tick-dense area where your dog is frequently playing host to the vexing little critters. There are several types of hooks, like the Tick Tornado or the Tick Stick. You simply put the prongs on either side of the tick and twist upward.
Grooming Dogs During Flea & Tick Season
When your dogs are being bathed, it’s always a good idea to use a conditioner. The PRIDE+GROOM shampoos and THE FINAL COAT conditioner are especially conducive for doing tick checks because they keep the hair and fur silky and detangled, making the search incrementally easier. It’s also important to have the proper tools to remove active fleas and ticks if found.
Eliminating Active Fleas and Ticks
Active fleas and ticks are pests already living on an animal or dog's skin. Ridding dogs of fleas and ticks can range from easy to difficult, depending on the dog’s coat type and the extent of the infestation.
Dog parents who have a dog with short, thin fur may have an easier time eliminating fleas and ticks because they’re easy to see. A pet's fur that is thick, brings more difficulty. These bugs can easily hide and be challenging to remove from a dog with long or thick fur.
However, some effective dog flea and tick products are available to pet parents that will safely remove fleas and ticks from their dogs and keep them off, including flea combs. Just check active ingredients and look out for skin irritation.
Why Are Fleas Dangerous For Dogs?
While fleas don’t transmit Lyme disease they can cause a terrible allergic reaction called flea allergy dermatitis, which can become very painful and itchy for the dog. Fleas move around quickly and tend to jump and get lost easily on the body.
They leave behind flea excrement, which we call flea dirt, which looks like pepper. If you're not sure if you’re finding flea related dirt or regular dirt, you can do a test by pressing the black bits directly onto a wet paper towel. If you can see some brown or red “bleeding” then what you’ve found is flea excrement and you should speak to a veterinarian about sterilizing your home and clothing from possible eggs stemming from fleas.
Itching and scratching, redness, flaky skin, scabs, hot spots, hair loss. If your pet has an allergy to fleas, you may observe these uncomfortable symptoms and more if they get fleas. The bite of one flea can send your dog into a whirlwind of scratching, biting, and digging at their skin.
Also, fleas are the most common cause of tapeworms. The first thing your pet will most likely do when bitten by a flea is chew at the spot where the bite is. Often, this results in your dog swallowing the flea. Fleas carry the larvae of the tapeworm, and these larvae will mature into adult tapeworms inside your pet’s intestines. Fleas have also been known to cause anemia from blood loss in very infested dogs.
Finding the Best Dog Flea & Tick Prevention For Your Dog
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) cautions pet owners that parasite protection is not “one-size-fits-all.” Some products should not be used on very young or very old pets. Some breeds may be sensitive to certain active ingredients that can make them extremely ill. The AVMA suggests that you ask your veterinarian the following questions when you consult about the best and safest option for your dog:
- What parasites does this product protect against?
- How often should I use/apply the product?
- How long will it take for the product to work?
- If I see a flea or tick, does that mean it’s not working?
- What should I do if my pet has a reaction to the product?
- Is there a need for more than one product?
- How would I apply or use multiple products on my pet?
Can My Dog Still Get Fleas in the Winter?
Even though fleas aren't as prolific during winter as they are in warmer times, protected outdoor areas such as outbuildings, screened porches, outdoor dog kennels, dog houses, and even wildlife dens can provide enough heat for the insects to survive. Cold temperatures don't kill flea eggs — they just wait until it warms up to hatch.
Fleas are highly adaptable insects, and they've evolved to remain in the pupae stage for 30 weeks to a year while waiting for optimal temperatures. When suitable temperatures are detected, the pupae all hatch within a matter of hours. Fleas prefer warmth.
Keep in mind that the average adult female flea can lay as many as 50 eggs per day, so flea populations quickly explode once the dormant pupae begin hatching, making killing fleas difficult. However, indoor pets typically see little reduction in flea activity even as outdoor temperatures plummet. The artificial environment provided by home heating systems creates a prime habitat for fleas to thrive.
How to Avoid Ticks and Fleas Without Using Harmful Chemicals?
Consumers can avoid harmful topical treatments and pet products with TCVP (Tetrachlorvinphos) by looking out for the following: Tick and flea prevention pet collars, dusts or powders, tick treatments, flea treatments, and liquid sprays, which often contain TCVP, a chemical commonly used in topical treatments and pet products to kill fleas and ticks.
TCVP kills these pests, but also may be extremely dangerous for pets and their owners, especially young children and pregnant women. Serious health problems have been linked to the harmful chemicals. The environmental community such as the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and seasoned pet owners have suggested many safer alternatives for preventing fleas and ticks.
Pet Grooming: Grooming your pet regularly can be a great way to prevent ticks and fleas. Soap and water can kill adult fleas and combing your pet with a fine-tooth flea comb can remove fleas, eggs, and other debris. Also, pests tend to be less attracted to clean animals.
Targeted House Cleaning: Vacuuming the places your dogs and other pets like to hang out such as under furniture and their bedding as well as washing your pet’s bed with soap and hot water can get rid of fleas or flea eggs before they hatch. Do not forget to empty the vacuum container outside so the eggs do not hatch in your house.
Yard Maintenance: If you have a yard, keeping your grass mowed and leaves raked is important as ticks and fleas like to breed in tall grass and leafy areas. Keeping your yard uninhabitable to tick and flea breeding can avoid possible pet exposures to the pests.
Avoiding Woods or Grassy Areas: If possible, avoid areas with a high risk of tick and flea exposure such as woods and high grass areas.
Checking for Tick and Flea: Check your pets daily for ticks and fleas, especially after spending time in a high-risk area.
Pet T-Shirt: This one might not be for everyone, but when entering a high-risk area, you can consider putting a physical barrier, such as a pet T-shirt, on your pet to prevent pests from crawling onto them.
Talk to Your Vet: If you need more protection beyond the chemical-free strategies above, chemicals in flea and tick products have varying degrees of danger, and you can work with your vet to understand the harms of each one. Flea collars, especially those with TCVP, are amongst the most dangerous. You can ask your vet about prescribing alternatives such as oral flea-prevention treatments.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, fleas and ticks find their way into our homes and onto us and our animals. Maybe it’s because you live in an apartment, and they hitch a ride on your neighbor’s dog. Maybe it's a recent hike that you embarked on that your pet tagged along for. Or perhaps your selected flea treatment didn’t last as long as you expected it to.
Ticks and fleas may be brought into your yard by many common carriers like feral cats, deer, raccoons, opossums, turkey and coyotes. Successful flea and tick prevention and control involves eliminating fleas and ticks from your dog or cat and their environment.
No matter the reason, it's best to stay ahead of these things and learn how to identify a flea and tick infestation as early as possible. The earlier you identify it and try to prevent it, the earlier you can get it under control!
WHO IS PRIDE+GROOM?
PRIDE+GROOM was born because 4 New York City dog lovers wanted the same level of grooming products for their dogs that they themselves enjoyed. They looked (hard) but nothing was up to snuff. Or sniff. Like so many, we love our families and take pride in our homes, and we consider our pets to be integral parts of those entities. That said, we could not find an effective way to coif them that was on par with the way we tended to our children, our homes, or ourselves. These beloved pets are allowed on the furniture and in our beds, and yet even when fresh from the groomer, we knew they did not smell or feel as good as they could.
With the development of our coat-specific shampoos, conditioner and deodorizing spray, we think we found just the way to say thanks for being the best and the sweetest MVP of the house.
PRIDE+GROOM is the first dog grooming brand launched under a beauty platform, with formulas made in a clean beauty and scent lab. We know beauty is not only skin deep. We did a ton of research to create the entire line. Each product is formulated with its own unique blend of essential oils sourced from around the world.
IN DOG WE TRUST
Shop our entire line: www.prideandgroom.com