Flea and Tick Prevention for Your Trail Dog
I'm a freelance writer, blogger, self-published author, and retired Soldier with a "thing" for adventure in the great outdoors with my dog.
Fleas and Ticks: More Than a Nuisance
Aside from the fact that nobody wants the itchiness, irritation, the potential allergic reaction of flea and tick bites, and the secondary infections that can come from scratching them, these parasitic insects and arachnids (respectively) can transmit diseases to both your trail dog and you as well as any other pets and family members in your home.
Diseases such as Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are all transmitted by ticks. Similarly, fleas are known to transmit Murine Typhus, Rickettsia, tapeworms, and induce hemolytic anemia.
Fleas are small insects that feed on a host animal’s blood. Growing to be up to 3 mm in length, fleas have a complex mouth that serves two functions. The first is to pierce the skin of the host animal, and the second is to inject saliva into the bite before sucking the host’s blood into its body. It is during their feeding that diseases can be transmitted from the flea itself to the host and to others living with the host animal.
Did you know that within just moments of landing on a host, more than half of all fleas will begin to feed? It is because of this that it is possible for fleas to literally suck enough blood to cause anemia and have the potential to ultimately kill their host. Within one day of feeding, female fleas will begin to lay eggs, perpetuating their parasitic cycle.
Severe Flea Infestation
Ticks are parasites falling within the arachnid class (along with spiders and scorpions) that also feed on the blood of a host animal. Also like fleas, ticks use their mouthpiece to puncture the skin of their host and siphon the host’s blood for feeding; this is how diseases are spread from the tick to the host (either animal or human).
Within just a few moments, to a couple of hours of making their way onto a host, ticks will take their first blood meal. Each tick feeds until it becomes engorged, sometimes increasing their body weight several hundred times before dislodging their mouthparts and dropping from the host.
Like fleas, ticks use a mouthpiece to pierce the skin of their host animal to feed on blood. Also, like fleas, ticks can pass the disease to the host animal through feeding. Severe and untreated tick infestations can result in anemia and ultimately, death.
Preventing Flea and Tick Infestations
The best way to prevent both fleas and ticks is to prevent your pet from becoming infested in the first place with chemoprophylaxis or other preventive measures. Alternate measures can include regular bathing of your dog (especially after outdoor adventures in remote areas), flea shampoos, flea collars, flea drops, or any combination thereof.
With Mesa, and now Jaxon (our latest rescue pup and trail dog in training) I use Frontline drops in combination with a prescription for Trifexis, which also prevents heartworms.
When I know we'll be in the thickest of brush and least disturbed areas of nature I'll add a Soresto flea collar, also prescribed by my vet.
Another important protective measure is to carefully inspect your dog after returning home from romps off the beaten path. Fleas and ticks especially prefer those warm, dark, hard to reach places like ears, armpits, and between the toes and paw pads.
Always check with your veterinarian regarding proper dosing instructions based on your animal's size, age, breed, and reproductive status especially when combining prevention methods. Some treatments may interact adversely and cause an accidental overdose and neurological issues.
The Best Method for Removing Ticks
If you do find ticks embedded into your dog’s skin, it’s imperative to remove them quickly, but carefully. The longer a tick remains embedded, the greater the chance for the spread of disease. There are a lot of myths out there about the best method to do so, but nothing works as well as a good pair of tweezers grasping the tick’s head/mouthparts as close to the skin as possible and pulling them out.
Again, you must place the tweezers as close to the dog’s skin as possible, otherwise, you risk crushing the tick’s body and actually “injecting” disease pathogens into your pet. Once the tick is removed, a light swabbing of the site with an antiseptic followed by a light coat of antibacterial ointment helps to prevent infection of the open sore.
If for some reason, the tick’s head or barbed mouthpiece breaks off and remains embedded in your dog’s skin, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the area to observe for signs of infection over the next few days. Should an infection occur at the site of the removed tick, you’ll need to visit your veterinarian for treatment that may include antibiotics.
Inspect Your Dog Thoroughly for Ticks
Prevention Is Key
Protect your favorite trail buddy, yourself, and your family from irritation, allergic reactions, and diseases by utilizing prophylactics such as flea and tick collars or drops prescribed by your veterinarian.
Lastly, utilizing flea and tick shampoo and removing ticks as quickly as possible after discovery is essential to nipping any parasitic infestations in the bud. In a pinch, Dawn dishwashing liquid can be used to bathe dogs suffering from flea infestations.
Resources on Flea and Tick-Borne Pathogens
- CDC - Babesiosis - General Information - Frequently Asked Questions
- CDC - DPDx - Dipylidium caninum
- Other Spotted Fever Group Rickettsioses
- Murine Typhus
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) | CDC
- Ehrlichiosis | CDC
- Lyme Disease | Lyme Disease | CDC
© 2017 Abby Perretti-Blaisdell
Keep Your Dog Safe From Fleas and Ticks With 10 Prevention Tips
It’s that time of year again. Flea and tick season is upon us, and nothing annoys a dog more than those pesky pests. Responsible dog owners know that their canine companion’s warm body and soft fur is a personal paradise for these insects. But once they move in — and begin feeding on your pet’s blood — they can cause a wide range of health problems, from skin infections to Lyme disease.
Your best bet for effective and safe solutions is to ask your veterinarian, who is the most up-to-date on flea and tick preventatives, treatments, and information. American Kennel Club’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein offers 10 tips for flea and tick prevention and treatment.
- Prevention is best managed with one of the many veterinary-approved flea and tick products available on the market. Speak to your veterinarian to find the best, most appropriate flea and tick prevention product for your dog. There are flea and tick topical treatments, collars, and shampoos each made to address specific needs. And in extreme conditions, you can try one of these sun and bug blocker overalls, which provide protection from biting insects and harmful UV rays.
- Read the label. Never, ever apply flea medication made for cats to dogs unless the label says it is made for cats and dogs.
- Regularly inspect your dogs (even if they are taking a tick preventative) and yourself for ticks after walks through the woods or grassy settings. On dogs, look especially on the feet (and between toes), under the legs, on lips, around eyes and ears (and inside ears), near the anus, and under the tail. Be sure to look under your dog’s collar, too. Feel for bumps all over your dog, and part the fur to check out any bumps you do feel.
- The quicker you remove a tick, the less likely your dog will contract a secondary illness related to tick bites. Learn the proper method of tick removal. Invest in a pair of fine tweezers or a tick removal tool used for this purpose. It’s best to wear gloves and remove the tick by the head. If you are unable to remove the tick, call your veterinarian.
- Keep grass in your yard mowed as short as possible. Refrain from walking into grassy patches in endemic tick areas if you can. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggests removing leaf litter, tall grasses, and brush from your yard.
- For fleas, look for them on areas of your dog where the coat is sparse or thin. Think belly, inner sides of the hind limbs, and armpits. Fleas are tiny and copper-colored, and they move quickly on your dog’s skin. You may also be able to see “flea dirt” or feces, tiny dark spots that turn red from digested blood when put on a wet paper towel.
- If you own multiple dogs, treat them all at the same time. This will help prevent cross infestation. Keeping your dog away from other dogs during flea season can also reduce the risk of getting fleas.
- While dogs are being treated, the surrounding environmentmustbe treated at the same time. Wash all bedding in soap and hot water and heat dry or get rid of it, and completely vacuum the sofas and carpets. When you’re done, make sure to empty the vacuum containers outside.
- If flea infestation is extensive in your home, a “fogger” can be used. When you use a flea and tick fogger, the room must be evacuated of all pets and people for 12-to-24 hours (read label directions carefully to determine safety, or ask your veterinarian). Be sure to choose a fogger that kills adult fleas and flea larvae.
- If infestation is bad enough, or in parts of the country where fleas are on the ground, professional exterminators may be needed. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that!
Buyer’s Guide to the Best Flea Treatment for Dogs
As a pet parent, you want the best for your pup. You’ve selected the best dog bed, the highest quality dog crate, and a dog house that features all of the bells and whistles. If you have a puppy, you may have even have a dog playpen for your pooch so that he can enjoy playing outside without getting into trouble, and if you’re pet is going to be spending a lot of time outside, you might even have an outdoor dog kennel for him so that he has plenty of space so that he can run safely. Since you put so much thought and care into finding the best quality products for your furry friend, it stands to reason that you are also going to want to put the same thought and care into selecting the best flea treatment for dogs, when and if your pooch comes down with an infestation of fleas.
Just like every other type of dog product out there, there are tons of flea treatments for dogs on the market. With so many choices, it can be hard to pick the best product. In order to help you narrow down your choices, we’ve developed a buyer’s guide that’s full of valuable information. Keep on reading to find out more about the top rated flea treatments for dogs.
Why Do You Need a Flea Treatment for Dogs?
Despite your best efforts to keep your dog neat and clean, he can still develop an infestation of fleas. It’s part of pet ownership. Fleas are very cunning little creatures and they can attach themselves onto a dog’s fur quickly and hid in their coats, completely unbeknownst to you until, that is, you start noticing that your pup is itching uncontrollably, or you find fleas jumping around on you (the horror!)
Fleas are more than just a nuisance they can be downright dangerous. These pests can cause painful bites that can cause your dog to actually chew or scratch off his coat and create sores his skin. They can also carry diseases that can cause a number of health issues, such as flea bite dermatitis, typhus, and tapeworm, and even the plague!
To combat a flea problem, you need to act quickly. Adult fleas can lay up to 50 eggs in a single day. All it takes is a single flea to cause a major infestation not only on your pet, but throughout your entire house! By using a high-quality, fast acting flea treatment for dogs, you can nip this problem in the bud so you and your four legged family member can get back to a fun, peaceful, and flea-free life.
Things to Consider with the Best Flea Treatments for Dogs
Like we said, there are a number of flea treatments for dogs on the market. So, how can you tell which options are the best? Below, we highlight some of the most important features that the best flea treatment options will offer:
- Easy application. The best flea medicine for dogs will be easy to apply. Your dog is already going through enough with a flea infestation the last thing he needs is the added stress of a difficult application of a flea treatment. Topical solutions and tablets that are taken orally are the easiest options available. They can be administered within a matter of seconds, and your dog won’t have to be restrained.
- Fast acting. The best flea treatment will also be fast acting the faster it works, the faster your dog will get relief, and the sooner the problem will be under control. Most of the top rated flea treatments for dogs start working within 24 hours of application though many start working within just a few hours.
- Long lasting. The treatment should also offer long lasting coverage. It won’t be very effective if it stops working in just a few days!
- Lasting, the best flea treatments for dogs are waterproof. You don’t want to worry about your dog’s treatment washing off in the bath, when he’s swimming, or when he’s outside in the rain.
- Treats other pests, too. In addition to treating fleas, high quality flea and tick treatments for dogs will also combat other pests, like ticks and lice.
Summing It Up
There is nothing worse than discovering that your furry friend has been infested by fleas. Fortunately, you can combat the problem by using the best flea treatment for dogs. In this guide, we offer five of the best options that are currently on the market, and also provide information that will help you make the best choice for your pooch. By using the best flea and tick treatment for dogs, you can treat your dog’s pest woes promptly and prevent the problem from growing into a major catastrophe. If you aren’t sure which treatment you should use, speak to your vet. He or she will be able to provide you with more detailed information so that you can make the best decision for you and your pet.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Flea bites may be more than an itchy annoyance to some dogs and cats. They can cause flea allergy dermatitis—an allergic reaction to proteins in flea saliva. And a pet’s constant scratching can cause permanent hair loss or other skin problems. Fleas feasting on your pet’s blood can lead to anemia and, in rare cases, death.
Ticks can also harm your pet, transmitting infections such as Lyme disease. And pets can bring ticks into the home, exposing you and your family to illness from a tick bite.
Hundreds of pesticides, repellents, and growth inhibitors are available to protect your pet from flea and tick bites. Some of these products are available only from a veterinarian others can be bought over the counter.
Flea and tick products range from pills given by mouth to collars, sprays, dips, shampoos, powders, and “spot-ons,” liquid products squeezed onto the dog’s or cat’s skin usually between the shoulder blades or down the back. A few spot-on products are available for flea control in ferrets, and fly and tick control in horses.
Pet owners need to be cautious about using flea and tick products safely, says Ann Stohlman, V.M.D., a veterinarian in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine. “You need to take the time to carefully read the label, the package insert, and any accompanying literature to make sure you’re using the product correctly.”
Regulation of Flea and Tick Products
Flea and tick products for pets are regulated by either FDA or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
FDA is responsible for regulating animal drugs however, some products to control external parasites come under the jurisdiction of EPA. FDA and EPA work together to ensure adherence to all applicable laws and regulations. In general, flea and tick products that are given orally or by injection are regulated by FDA.
Before an animal drug is allowed on the market, FDA must “approve” it. Before a pesticide can be marketed, EPA must “register” it.
Both agencies base their decision on a thorough review of detailed information on the product’s safety and effectiveness provided by the manufacturer or other product sponsor. The sponsor must show that the drug or pesticide meets current safety standards to protect
- the animal
- people in contact with the animal
- the environment
The sponsor must also show that the drug or pesticide produces the claimed effect, and the product must carry specific labeling so that it can be used according to the directions and precautions.
After a product is allowed on the market, manufacturers are required by law to report any side effects of their flea or tick products to the regulating agency.
Caution with Spot-On Products
In spring 2009, EPA noticed an increase in pet incidents being reported involving spot-on pesticide products for pets. EPA received a large amount of bad pet reaction information reported to the companies that hold registrations for these products. EPA formed a veterinarian team with the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) to review this information. The team studied incidents involving cats and dogs, looked at the ingredients, studied labeling, and discussed data needs for the future to improve analyses and regulation.
Based on its analysis, EPA determined that some changes need to be made in how spot-on products are regulated, how companies report data on pet incidents, and how packages are labeled for cats, dogs, and size of animals to ensure the safety of these products. Based on reported incidents, EPA also concluded that many but not all pet incidents took place because the products were misused.
In September 2011, EPA required the following actions in response to the analysis of spot-on treatments:
- Requiring manufacturers of spot-on pesticide products to improve labeling, making instructions clearer to prevent product misuse, including repeating the word “dog” or “cat” and “only” throughout the directions for use and applicator vial, and detailed side effect language.
- Requiring clear marking to differentiate between dog and cat products and more precise label instructions to ensure proper dosage per pet weight.
- Restricting the use of any inert ingredients that EPA finds may contribute to incidents.
- Launching a consumer information campaign to explain new label directions and to help users avoid making medication errors.
Spot-on flea and tick products can be effective treatments, and many people use the products with no harmful effects to their pets. EPA does not advise pet owners to stop using spot-ons, but asks them to use caution and make informed decisions when selecting treatment methods.
EPA advises pet owners to
- carefully follow label directions and monitor their pets for any signs of a bad reaction after application, particularly when using these products for the first time
- talk to a veterinarian about responsible and effective use of flea and tick products
When to Treat
It's best to treat your pet at the beginning of flea and tick season, says Stohlman. The length of flea season, which peaks during warm weather months, varies depending on where you live. “It can last four months in some places, but in other places, like Florida, fleas can live all year long,” says Stohlman. And fleas can live inside a warm house year-round no matter where you live.
Ticks are found in some places year-round. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that in most parts of the United States, the greatest chance of infection by a tick bite is spring and summer.
Tips for Using Flea and Tick Products
- Read the label carefully before use. If you don't understand the wording, ask your veterinarian or call the manufacturer. “Even if you’ve used the product many times before,” says Stohlman, “read the label because the directions or warnings may have changed.”
- Follow the directions exactly. If the product is for dogs, don't use it on cats or other pets. If the label says use weekly, don't use it daily. If the product is for the house or yard, don't put it directly on your pet.
- Keep multiple pets separated after applying a product until it dries to prevent one animal from grooming another and ingesting a drug or pesticide.
- Talk to your veterinarian before using a product on weak, old, medicated, sick, pregnant, or nursing pets, or on pets that have previously shown signs of sensitivity to flea or tick products.
- Monitor your pet for side effects after applying the product, particularly when using the product on your pet for the first time.
- If your pet experiences a bad reaction from a spot-on product, immediately bathe the pet with mild soap, rinse with large amounts of water, and call your veterinarian.
- Call your veterinarian if your pet shows symptoms of illness after using a product. Symptoms of poisoning include poor appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive salivation.
- Do not apply a product to kittens or puppies unless the label specifically allows this treatment. Use flea combs to pick up fleas, flea eggs, and ticks on puppies and kittens that are too young for flea and tick products.
- Wash your hands immediately with soap and water after applying a product, or use protective gloves while applying.
- Store products away from food and out of children's reach.
Keep the product package after use in case side effects occur. You will want to have the instructions available, as well as contact information for the manufacturer.
- To report problems with spot-on flea or tick products, contact the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) at 1-800-858-7378.
- To report problems with FDA approved flea or tick drug products, contact the drug manufacturer directly (see contact information on product labeling) or report to FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine on a Form FDA 1932a.
- If your pet needs immediate medical care, call your local veterinarian, a local animal emergency clinic, or the National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. The NAPCC charges a fee for consultation.