Ticks and fleas are the most common parasites in dogs. They feed on blood and are a torment for both dogs and humans. Here, we tell you everything you need to know about ticks and fleas on dogs. With the arrival of spring and the rise in temperatures, the risk of tick bites also increases since they inhabit grass and weeds. The worst thing is that ticks are annoying, but they are carriers of diseases like Lyme disease and babesiosis.
Ticks: A Tiny and Silent Enemy
Ixodoids (the scientific name for ticks) are small parasites that are part of the arachnid family. Like their cousins, mites or spiders are recognizable by their four pairs of legs, unlike insects with three pairs. They usually live in nature, hidden in medium-height vegetation, where they wait for an animal to pass by to feed on its blood like a good parasite. After their “feast” is over, they drop down and continue searching for their next victim.
A tick can stay on a dog for several days, and the longer it is, the greater the risk of infection. For this reason, it is essential to act quickly to detect as soon as possible if a tick has infected your dog. They transmit diseases to both animals and persons and can leave sequelae for life or even cause death in the most severe cases. The three main conditions that can spread are babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, or the well-known Lyme disease.
Tick control and Tick Products
The sooner you find and remove the ticks, the lower the risk that pathogens will spread to your furry. This is especially the case with Lyme disease, also known as borreliosis, since the pathogens found in the tick’s intestine have to reach the bite, which takes about twelve hours. Therefore, it is quite unlikely that the disease will be transmitted if you remove the tick in time.
So you should check your dog after each walk. Pay special attention to the head, ears, neck, gut, and inner thigh area because ticks prefer areas where the skin is thin, and there is little fur. However, it is important that you check your entire body thoroughly. Ticks are sometimes not easy to see, as their size varies with the amount of blood absorbed and can be as small as a pinhead or as large as a cherry pit.
Tick Treatment: How are ticks removed?
The best way to remove ticks is with tweezers. With them, you can extract, with great care, the small bloodsuckers from the skin, in which they have attached themselves with determination. In no way should you squeeze a tick, as this can cause the contents of the parasite, and with it the pathogens in its intestine, to pass into your dog’s blood. In addition, you have to pay special attention to eliminate the tick because if the head were stuck, it could cause inflammation.
Avoid using oils, glues, nail polish removers, or other home remedies, as they can cause the tick to vomit, which could cause pathogens to enter through the bite.
How to remove a tick from a dog:
- Use a pair of tweezers.
- The tweezers should be as close to the dog’s skin as possible.
- Grab the head of the tick and carefully remove it from the bite.
- Check that the parasite has been completely removed.
- Disinfect the wound and check it frequently. If circular redness were created around the bite, it could indicate a Lyme disease infection.
- Keep the bite in mind and watch your dog’s behavior. If you notice that you are sick, dull, or have a fever, go to a vet as soon as possible.
After you have removed the tick, you will have to get rid of it. Some use quite drastic methods and burn the parasite to protect their furry ones and themselves. But there are much less aggressive options, like putting it on a piece of tape and folding it. So you can eliminate it without you, or your dog is in danger.
When removing the tick you must be careful to ensure you remove the tick head; otherwise, your dog may develop a serious infection. If you would like extra help with this process, you can purchase special tick removal tools. After you have successfully removed the tick you can kill it by squishing it between your fingers or stepping on it; you should hear a small crunching sound. In addition, you can also flush the tick down the toilet.
Ticks are not to be underestimated as they can transmit various diseases. These are the most frequent:
- Lyme disease: Also known as borreliosis, is an infectious disease triggered by spirochete Borrelia burdogferi . It is transmitted by bites from parasites such as ticks, and when it reaches the blood, it spreads.
- Encephalitis: or tick meningoencephalitis (TBE), is a viral disease caused by the tick encephalitis virus (TBEV). It is transmitted through the bite of a tick. It is not a frequent disease and usually occurs only in animals with a weakened immune system.
- Babesiosis: Also known as canine malaria, is an infectious disease caused by single-celled parasites. It is transmitted through the bite of a tick, attacking the red blood cells.
- Anaplasmosis: it is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus anaplasma that are transmitted through the bite of a tick.
- Ehrlichiosis: is an infectious disease caused by the Ehrlichia canis bacteria. It is transmitted by brown ticks originating from European Mediterranean countries.
- Hepatozoonosis: It is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Hepatozoon canis. The disease is spread by eating a brown tick.
Avoid ticks on dogs
Prevention is better than cure, so it is convenient to protect your faithful friend from tick bites and the consequent risk of contagion of diseases. For this, there are different preparations (antiparasitic agents) that kill ticks or prevent them from sticking.
- Pipettes: the antiparasitic pipettes are applied between the shoulder blades of the dog and protect it from ticks for four weeks. The active ingredient is assimilated through the skin, and since it is an unreachable area for the animal, it is considered very effective.
- Sprays: the antiparasitic sprays are very competent against ticks. After its application, the dog will be protected for about four weeks.
- Collars: Another option to protect dogs from ticks is deworming collars and flea collars.
To avoid a Lyme disease infection, there is the possibility of vaccinating your dog, which does not prevent the fact that a tick can bite. Still, it helps to produce the necessary antibodies to avoid a Borrelia infection. There are several types of vaccines available, and it is best to be advised by your vet.
Ticks typically live in hot climates and are most active during the spring and summer months. For this reason, we must be very attentive to how our pets feel after long walks in the park or forest. Ticks have the ability to jump and stick to the hair and skin of our furry friends. For this reason, it is important to thoroughly check their fur once a day and pay particular attention to changes in their behavior or skin, such as redness or irritation.
If you notice a tick during the regular brushing of your pet, you should act immediately and remove it with a pair of tweezers. The less time that the tick is in contact with your dog, the less likely it is to become infected with diseases.
Fleas on dogs
If your dog is constantly scratching, it might have fleas. These parasites are not only a bother but can cause disease. In principle, a flea infestation occurs through contact with other affected animals, but fleas also like to nest in fabrics such as rugs, cushions, or armchairs. When an adult flea has found a host, it does not usually abandon it, it feeds on its blood, inhabits its fur, and reproduces at high speed.
If your dog has fleas, it is most likely that he will experience, above all, itching and localized skin reactions such as red spots with a light halo. The strongest reactions include pustules and scabs. The dog constantly scratching or chewing on the skin can even lead to hair loss or the appearance of purulent or serious eczema. Favorite body parts of fleas include the ears, the sides of the back, the back, the tailbone, the belly, and the inside of the thighs. However, a flea infestation can go unnoticed and be asymptomatic.
The dog may also suffer from flea bite allergy dermatitis (DAPP), a hypersensitivity reaction caused by the allergen that the flea transmits through saliva. This reaction to a flea bite is considered one of the most serious and common allergic skin conditions. A single bite is enough to produce an immense itch in the dog.
In the case of puppies or dogs with other diseases, a generalized infestation can lead to anemia resulting from bloodsucking. Also, fleas can infect the dog with the tapeworm Dipylidium caninum, also known as the dog tapeworm.
Fleas at home? – Diagnosis
When it comes to a large infestation, it is possible to detect fleas with the naked eye. Apart from this, clinical symptoms, such as bites and redness on the body parts preferred by fleas, can also indicate the presence of fleas. With the help of a flea comb, you can discover fleas or their droppings.
Flea feces can indeed be mistaken for specks of dirt, but there is a good trick: place the particles that have stuck to the comb on a sheet of paper or kitchen paper, moisten them with a little hot water; if, when doing so, they acquire a reddish color, then they are excrements that contain the sucked blood. Sometimes flea eggs or flea larvae can also be found among the fur, but these can only be identified with a microscope.
A flea saliva allergy is much more difficult to diagnose because fleas or their droppings are rarely found. The best indicators are the typical symptoms of DAPP and skin disorders. However, to make a diagnosis, other parasites or allergies must also be considered. On suspicion of PDAP, a veterinarian specializing in dermatology may carry out the diagnostic treatment with drugs or an intradermal test.
A female lays an average of thirty flea eggs a day! She puts them on the dog’s coat, and from there, they fall to the ground and spread around him, like on the sofa, on his bed, and through the cracks in the parquet. Four to twelve days later, flea eggs hatch to flea larvae that feed on the feces of the fleas and the tissues of the cells that fall from the animals. The larvae quickly become fleas and search for a host. That is why it is important that, when fighting these parasites, remember that you must also exterminate the flea eggs and the flea larvae, and not only the adult fleas.
Fleas are not very selective, and although they differ between types of fleas (for example, fleas in dogs are different from those in cats ), they can also attack humans.
How to tell if my dog has fleas
A flea is only a few millimeters and is difficult to see with the naked eye. The main symptom of suspecting fleas attacking your dog is that he is scratching a lot, creating wounds and eczema.
If you suspect that your faithful companion has fleas, the first thing you should do is check it well. It is enough that you find only one, and if you do not find any, you can also find out the existence of these by checking for flea droppings or flea dirt among your dog’s coat.
To make sure you are doing it correctly, follow these steps:
- Place your dog on a smooth, clean surface so you can distinguish feces from fleas when they hit the ground. Ideally, a tile floor or a bathtub.
- Next, carefully comb your dog’s coat, preferably using a tight-knit bristle comb so that excrement crumbs are caught or fall to the ground.
- Pick up the crumbs on a white cloth and moisten them.
- If it is flea droppings, you will see red spots on the cloth, as the crumbs are digested dog blood.
Fleas are dangerous
A flea bite is not only annoying but can have unintended consequences :
- Anemia: A severe flea infestation can cause significant blood loss, which can lead to anemia in your dog.
- Allergic dermatitis: When a flea bites loose saliva, if your dog is allergic to it, then flea bite allergy dermatitis (DAPP) can occur.
- Cestodes: Fleas can carry cestode eggs inside them. If this is the case and your dog has swallowed a flea, the eggs reach the intestine of your dog and develop into cestodes, that is, intestinal parasites. Therefore, you must completely deworm the dog.
How to kill fleas
To eliminate fleas on dogs, you must follow two steps:
Treating the animal:
Flea treatment in dogs can be done in different ways: with pipettes, which are applied between the dog’s shoulder blades, with antiparasitic sprays or collars.
Treating the environment and other pets:
First, if your dog has fleas, it is important that you check and treat all of your pets and surroundings to make sure there are no traces of fleas, eggs, or larvae. Wash all blankets and beds at least sixty degrees. When you vacuum the house, remove the bag immediately. Second, ensure you can treat the environment with insect repellent or dewormers. In addition, you can use flea shampoo.
It is also important to combat the larvae’s previous stages and treat the spaces where they can be found, such as the dog’s resting places, the cracks in the floor, the surfaces under the carpets, and other dark places where the larvae can hide. It is necessary to wash the blankets and cushions and vacuum the floor and the car thoroughly. After doing so, throw away the bag from the vacuum cleaner or put it in the freezer. After cleaning, it is advisable to spray the space with an insecticide, an antiparasitic spray, or a nebulizer that you can buy in a specialized store or your own veterinarian.
Protecting Against Ticks and Tick Bites on Dogs
Remember one of the best ways to prevent and detect ticks is to bathe your dog regularly and thoroughly check their fur after outdoor walks. Taking care of your pet is much more than just giving them food, playing with them, and buying them toys; you must go further and do everything possible to avoid ailments and diseases. Be sure to give your dogs antiparasitics every month, brush their hair once a day, and pay attention to their behavior as behavior changes and lameness are signs of illness.
Remember that ticks can also attack us and many of them bite without causing pain or detection. To protect yourself, it is recommended to wear a hat if you are going on an outdoor walk with your dog and thoroughly check your hair when you return. In addition, you can purchase a tick collar for your dog that aids in repelling ticks from your furry friend.
Do not forget to vaccinate your dog either, because this way you guarantee that its body can defend itself against the diseases that may affect it throughout its life.