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Dog Fleas & Ticks

Dog Fleas & Ticks

Preventing and Treating Fleas and Ticks For Dogs

How Fleas and Ticks Get Into Our Homes and Onto Our Dogs

How long can fleas or ticks live on my dog?

Fleas and ticks themselves don’t have a long lifespan, but they are very reproductive, and they’ll produce a lot of babies that will then just stay and re-infect your dog. So in general, once they have fleas, they’re not really going to go away unless you do something.

How do fleas or ticks get into my home?

It’s a scary thought, but even if your pets are mostly indoor, we can actually bring fleas and ticks into our home. They like to hitchhike on shoes, clothes, or belongings, and once they’re in your house, they would much prefer to be on your pets than anywhere else in your house.

Can fleas and ticks be transmitted directly to humans or other pets?

Yes, they can be. A flea and tick could come off of one of your pets and find their way to you, or burrow down in your house somewhere.

Where are fleas and ticks found?

Fleas and ticks all eventually need a host to stay alive, so they’re usually found on living creatures because they both survive off of blood, but both fleas and ticks also live in the environment and that’s where we pick them up, and that’s where they find us as hosts.

Can dogs get fleas or ticks in the winter?

Yes, especially in this area of the country. In some areas of the country, they may go more dormant in the winter, but in this area of the country, where we can see 75 degrees in January, we see fleas and ticks year round.

What factors can increase my dog’s risk of getting fleas and ticks?

Obviously, the more your dog is outside—especially in wooded areas—that will increase their exposure to fleas and ticks, but they don’t have to participate in those kinds of activities to get fleas and ticks.

FAQ 1: How to Know If Your Dog Has Fleas And/Or Ticks

I suspect my dog may have fleas or ticks. What should I do?

If you think you may have found fleas or ticks on your dog, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian to confirm that that’s what’s going on and get a medication that’s safe to kill them.

What information will my veterinarian need to know about my dog if I visit for flea and tick concerns?

It’s helpful for us to know if you’ve given any flea or tick over-the-counter medication or prescription medication. It’s helpful for us to know how many pets are in the household in total, and if you’ve been traveling anywhere.

Why is early detection of fleas and ticks so important?

Fleas and ticks both suck your pet’s blood, so the sooner you find them the safer it is. They also both can transmit diseases of varying severity to your pets, so the sooner you find them and get rid of them, the safer for your pet.

How will my veterinarian check my dog for fleas and ticks?

There are a couple of different ways that we can look for fleas and ticks. But typically in a long-haired dog like Rosie, sometimes you’ll see them just running around the skin. But a lot of the time, you may have to lift their fur up and look in different places to find it. So if you go against the hair growth and look all the way down to the skin in several places, you can see them either feeding in place or jumping and running around. They’re very fast so you may not see them for very long. Another really good place to look for them is on the belly where there’s not as much hair.

In addition to the belly, they like to go to the armpit and groin areas and under the tail. Another thing you can do to see if a dog might have fleas is just looking at the health of their skin right here at the base of their tail. This is the most common area for us to see dogs biting at fleas and to see fleas biting dogs. And a lot of the time, you’ll see a lot of redness, hair loss, or scabbing in this area. Even if you don’t see fleas, that’s a pretty good indication.

What do fleas and ticks look like? Are they easy to spot?

I have a couple of pictures that you guys can hopefully see. Fleas and ticks can be really hard to spot sometimes. Fleas are very tiny. This is probably a dog Rosie size and all these little black dots are fleas. Especially in a dark-haired dog, they can be really hard to detect. This is on a white cat, they’re a little bit easier to see.

This is called flea dirt that we’ll go over a little bit later. It’s actually flea poop and it’s left behind as little black specs. If you see that, even if you don’t see fleas, your dog has fleas. Rosie doesn’t want these on her. This is a tick that hasn’t bitten yet and is really small, and this is a tick that’s been feeding for a while and is engorged.

What do flea or tick bites look like?

Sometimes you really won’t see flea or tick bites. A lot of the time they may just look like a little red raised or irritated area. A lot of dogs with flea infestations will bite and scratch it themselves and cause a secondary skin infection that’s accompanied by redness, pus shills, bumps, or rash. Those aren’t necessarily flea bites, but they are a consequence of having fleas.

What is flea dirt?

Flea dirt, as I may have spoiled the surprise, is actually flea poop. So it’s actually after the fleas have fed on your dog’s blood, it’s what comes out afterwards as waste. So it’s kind of like dried blood. It appears black on their skin, and if it gets wet, like if you’re giving them a bath, it’ll run red.

How can I find fleas or ticks on my dog or in my dog’s environment?

So if an infestation is really bad, you may actually see fleas or flea eggs in your home or yard. But we talked about a couple of places to look for fleas. And there are some places that ticks like to live more than others too, especially inside or behind the ears, along the eyelid, sometimes they can blend in with the eyelashes, in between their toes, and on the top and underneath their tail—so make sure to check those places. Those are some of the most common areas that we find ticks, but just know that they can truly be anywhere.

If no fleas or ticks are found, does that mean my dog definitely does not have fleas or ticks?

As we said before, and I’ll admit I’ve even missed them sometimes in my patients, fleas and ticks can be very hard to find. They can be very small. In a long-haired dog, they can hide from me pretty easily. Fleas can be especially fast. So just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there.

What is the best way to remove a tick from my dog?

That can be tricky. I would say with something that you have at home. Probably the most readily available thing would be a set of tweezers. You will want to grasp it at the very base, close to the skin, pull really slow and steadily, not jerk it out, and hopefully you’ll remove the whole head. If you’re going to come into the vet clinic pretty quickly after discovering a tick, we can just remove it for you and get you on a prevention that’ll cause any other ones to fall off within a few hours.

If you still have any other questions and you’d like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (706) 278-1113. You can also email us or touch base on Facebook if you’d like. But please do reach out, and we’ll try and get back to you as fast as we can.

FAQ 2: How Are Fleas and Ticks Prevented and Treated?

How can I get rid of fleas and ticks in my home and environment?

Good question. As we said earlier, fleas and ticks do prefer to live on a host, like your dog or cat, but they can take up residence in your home or yard as well. The best way to prevent fleas and ticks from ever becoming a problem is to keep every pet in the household on a year round flea and tick prevention. That way, you’ll be killing anything that hops on them and you’re also preventing them from reproducing and populating your home environment.

If you do have a little bit of an infestation and need to treat your yard, there are pest control services who can come do that or over-the-counter products. There are also products that can be safe to treat home surfaces. Vacuuming even hardwood floors can go a long way in removing the eggs and larva which are stages of a flea life cycle that we actually can’t kill. I’d say that a combination of those things is likely to be recommended by your veterinarian, depending on the severity of your flea and tick infestation.

How long does it take for flea or tick treatment to start working?

Most flea and tick medications, at least the prescription ones, will start killing the fleas and ticks that are on your dog within a few hours, and then typically they last between a month to three months to protect your dog.

Can fleas or ticks recur after treatment?

Yes. You do have to keep your dog on some sort of prevention year round or fleas and ticks can come back at any time and take up residence on them.

Why is it important to treat for every stage of the flea or tick life cycle?

Fleas and ticks both have different life cycles—eggs, larva, and then the adult phase. Most of the flea and tick products are aimed at killing the adult flea or tick that you and I see and know. That’s because that phase is the easiest to kill, but the eggs and larva phases can be very difficult to kill. There are some medications that will sterilize a flea making it impossible for them to reproduce, which can really help decrease the population in your home.

Can I give my dog their monthly preventative medication to clear an infestation?

If you have a true infestation on your pets and in your home and yard, just treating the pet is going to take much longer to clear up the infestation. It’s also going to leave you and your family at risk for also coming in contact with these parasites. We typically recommend a multi-modal approach, treating the pets, treating your home, and treating your environment, if you have a true infestation.

Can vaccines protect my dog against flea and tick-borne diseases?

Fleas and ticks do carry some bacterial diseases that they can transmit to your pets. Off the top of my head, the only one that I know that we have a vaccine for is Lyme disease. We don’t really have Lyme disease in this area of the country, although we do see it sometimes. It’s much more common in the Northeast but there is a Lyme disease vaccine, if needed.

Does my dog need year-round flea and tick prevention?

We do recommend in Georgia that you keep your pets on flea and tick prevention year round, just because of our weather situation and our mild winters.

How much does flea and tick prevention cost?

A flea and tick prevention, like a monthly pill, will typically be anywhere between $15 and $25, depending on the size of your dog. If you’re able to purchase six months or a year supply at a time, the cost of that can go down greatly.

Can my dog get fleas or ticks even if they are on prevention?

Most of our preventatives require the flea or tick to be on the dog and most of them require the flea or tick to actually bite the dog to be killed. That’s how they come in contact with the medication, it kills very quickly, but you may still see an occasional flea or tick crawling on your dog. Just know that if you’re on prevention and you’re keeping it up-to-date, that flea or tick will be dead very shortly. It will not negatively affect your dog or your home.

Are there any home remedies for flea and tick prevention?

We don’t have proof that anything that’s not a medication will help to control fleas and ticks. One thing I can think of that a lot of folks use that’s very common is flea and tick shampoos and baths. I do think that these can help to mechanically remove fleas for a period of time but I would still recommend consulting your veterinarian about more of a long-term solution.

If you still have any other questions and you’d like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (706) 278-1113. You can also email us or touch base on Facebook if you’d like. But please do reach out, and we’ll try and get back to you as fast as we can.

FAQ 3: Flea and Tick Infestations

What can happen if my dog is not treated for fleas or ticks?

The biggest problem that will typically happen, especially with fleas, if they’re left untreated is secondary skin issues like bacterial infections, hotspots, and hair loss. Ticks, like we mentioned, can transmit some bacterial diseases that can affect different systems of the body. So that’s a possibility as well.

Are fleas or ticks painful for my dog?

A bad flea infestation and secondary skin issues can be very uncomfortable and painful. Some of the tick-borne diseases can cause some joint pain and things like that.

Can flea or tick infestations be fatal?

If they were infected by one of those secondary bacterial infections. Occasionally those can have some life threatening complications. In a really small puppy or kitten that’s really infested with fleas, we’ll see a flea anemia, where the fleas have taken so much blood that their red blood cell level is dangerously low. Typically, I would say that flea and tick infections are not fatal, but it is possible.

Can these diseases be transmitted to humans or other pets?

Typically, these vector borne diseases that are transmitted by fleas and ticks and mosquitoes can’t be directly transmitted. Fleas and ticks can be. If the same flea or tick got on you, those secondary infections could be transmitted to you, but you’re not getting it directly from your pet.

How are these diseases treated? Are they curable?

Lyme disease will take up residence in the body and cause lifelong latent infections. They can flare up. In general, there are pretty good treatments, but it can be really hard on your pet.

Is flea or tick treatment painful?

The treatment itself is not painful.

Is flea or tick treatment safe?

It is safe. Every drug we have on the market to treat and prevent fleas and ticks has to go through extensive clinical trials. We may recommend one over the other, depending on your different pet’s health status and size, but all the medications that we would recommend to you are considered safe.

How much does flea or tick treatment cost?

Flea or tick treatments usually range for about 15 to $25 a month to 100 to $200 a year, depending on the one you choose.

How long will it take to get rid of all the fleas or ticks in my dog’s environment?

When you start treating your pet, the fleas and ticks start dying really quickly, but generally it takes several life cycles to get rid of all of the fleas and ticks that are infesting the environment. That can take anywhere from three to six months and requires some diligent treatment of your pet and the environment during that time.

How can I clean my dog’s environment after an infestation?

That’s a good question. I think that vacuuming inside the house is a really good way. Using those safe products to treat furniture, houses, having pest control come to treat your premises are all really good ideas. Continuing to treat your pet is also the best way to prevent another infestation.

Do I need to treat all pets in the home if only one is diagnosed with fleas or ticks?

Absolutely. If only one pet is the most susceptible and that’s the one that you’re seeing it in, that doesn’t mean that the other pets don’t have them. Especially once you start treating that one pet, they’re going to jump off of that one. And the ones that don’t die may go on and infest your other pets. But if they’re not treated, they’re always going to be reservoirs for another infestation in your household.

Is it safe for children to be around my dog during treatment?

Most flea and tick medications and treatments these days are oral, taken by the dog in a pill form. So there’s no risk to your child. There are some over the counter flea and tick collars that I would recommend reading the label for. In the case of one of the topical flea and tick medications that are a liquid that goes on the back of the neck or between the shoulder blades, you’d need to keep your kids away from that until it dries. But I would just recommend reading the label.

If you still have any other questions and you’d like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (706) 278-1113. You can also email us or touch base on Facebook if you’d like. But please do reach out, and we’ll try and get back to you as fast as we can.