If you want to be a good dog owner, you will need to be prepared for a lot of different responsibilities. One of the most important is to ensure that your furry friend is properly protected from parasites. There are many different parasites that can affect our dogs, but among the most common are fleas and ticks. Fleas and ticks can quickly make your dog’s life pretty miserable and, in the case of fleas, can even go so far as to affect the humans in your home too.
Here's what you need to know what fleas and ticks, what they mean for your pet and how you can protect them.
Many people think that pet ownership and fleas go hand in hand, and while most dogs will get fleas during the course of their lifetime, it doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion. Fleas are virtually microscopic, wingless parasites that have immense jumping abilities, which makes it easier for them to travel between their hosts. When a flea gets onto your dog, it buries itself deep within their fur where it feeds on their blood.
Fleas are the most common cause of skin problems in dogs (and cats). This is because when a flea bites your pet, it injects saliva into their skin. This saliva is highly irritating, triggering the intense itching that most people associate with a flea problem. A percentage of dogs also suffer from flea allergies, meaning that their symptoms are even worse, and dogs may scratch so much that they damage the surface of the skin, putting them at risk of secondary infection.
Since they are so small (fully grown they can reach 1/8 of an inch), it can be incredibly difficult to see fleas with the naked eye. However, there are a few signs that your dog is affected. Aside from intense itching, you may also notice flea dirt in their coat. This looks a little like pepper and is actually flea feces. It contains blood, so if you get flea dirt wet, it will leave a pink or red smear on a paper towel.
The trouble with fleas is that they reproduce extremely quickly, and one female flea can lay an average of 20 eggs per day, meaning that a few fleas can fast turn into a large infestation. Fleas are also difficult to treat since they need to be targeted at every stage of their lifecycle. Flea eggs can represent around half the entire flea population in the home, and these microscopic eggs fall in between fibers in the carpet, under furniture and in cracks in floorboards, making them impossible to notice.
Ticks are another very common parasite. Like fleas, they are also wingless. However, they can’t jump and instead attach to their next post by clinging to them as they walk past. They can be found anywhere, but ticks are most commonly picked up by dogs when roaming in long grasses and wooded areas.
Just like fleas, ticks make their way deep into the fur where they attach themselves firmly using their mouth parts. As they drink, they swell in size so that they are more noticeable, growing from the size of a grain of sand to as big as a sesame seed. When full, several days later, they drop off and go in search of another host. Ticks can vary in color, from light grey to dark brown or black.
Ticks can also cause itching and irritation, but more worryingly, they carry many diseases, such as ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease which can make your dog very sick. And if you remove a tick and get blood on your skin, any infections could pass to you too.
Fortunately, there are many ways in which you can keep your dog safe from both of these parasites and their associated dangers. There are a whole range of different preventative products available, both over the counter and directly from your veterinarian. Some of these products will just protect against one of these parasites, but many combine protections meaning that you will only need to buy and administer one treatment.
Some of the product varieties that you will be able to choose from could include:
Your vet will be able to recommend the treatment that will best suit your pet. It’s important to make a note of the date that you administer the treatment too. This is because treatments are only effective for a short period of time before further doses are needed. Making sure you stay on top of this schedule will give your dog the best protection.
In the case of fleas, it is also advisable to undertake preventative measures at home too. This means cleaning and vacuuming hard-to-reach areas regularly to minimize the risk of flea eggs and larvae being present and washing your dog’s bedding and bed every few weeks.
If you would like more advice on flea and tick prevention, please call Liberty Veterinary Medical Center in Hinesville, Georgia at (912) 876-3357.