Fleas and ticks are hungry after getting through a long, cold winter. Yes, it’s that’s time again: nasty critters that attach themselves to our pets and carry disease, infect pets, and can cause serious harm or worse. No one particular product is a perfect match for any particular dog. What might be advisable for your dog based on climate, proclivity to fleas and ticks due to higher risk regions, etc., might not be the right product(s) for someone else’s dog.
Facts and Why You Should Not “Skip” Flea and Tick Prevention On Your Dog
Adult female fleas can lay over 5,000 eggs in their lifespan, which lasts about two to three months.
Fleas seen with the naked eye means there are MANY more eggs, larvae, and pupae. We all know what eggs are. Larvae is what hatches from the flea eggs, in anywhere between two days to two week. Larvae are found in dark places, like nooks, crannies, human and dog bedding. Pupae is the cocoon spun from larvae. Pretty gross, right? That is why you have to treat both the flea infestation on your dog and the environment in which your dog resides: i.e., home, yard, etc. Oh and if that’s not enough grossness, when a flea feeds off your dog (on Fido’s blood), she lays eggs by the thousands.
Many dogs are allergic to fleas: One flea bite = itching for weeks or more. Besides scratching the itch, dogs often chew on the affected area(s), thus ingesting fleas, which causes a whole other set of issues. Did you know flea can cause hairloss? Our last Cocker Spaniel had fleas at the age of 7 or 8 and experienced hairloss near her hind end, right by her tail. This could have been caused by fleas, and the hair never grew back. Hair loss is also indicative of a whole host of problems, so always check with your dog’s veterinarian.
Flea ingestion can cause tapeworms to form. According to petMD.com, “As the tapeworm grows, pieces of it break off into segments and pass into the dog’s intestines. You may see dried, white to cream colored segments, or pieces, of tapeworm in the dog’s feces or in the fur under the tail.” They are messy, gross, and though treated with veterinarian-prescribed medication, prevention is much easier.
Ticks bring forth a whole host of issues and problems. The CDC has a series of maps indicating general insight into the expected distribution of ticks that cause disease in the contiguous United States. You can read more about that here. Ticks can transmit diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, from animals to humans. In addition, ticks can seriously harm a dog.
Have you read about the Heartland virus being transmitted by ticks, found last year in Missouri? These things are very unsettling to dog parents.
A friend of ours found ticks on her dog here in Pennsylvania during the month of February. Although fleas may not survive in brutal winter temperatures outside, the warmth of home means fleas gravitate towards indoor comfort where they can affect pets.
Ways to Keep Fleas and Ticks Away from Your Dog
I am a fan of non-chemical ways to prevent nasty ticks and fleas. Our Puppy Relations Manager, Dexter, goes the safer route with human grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE). One version is from a company called DERMagic, which has a version called Flea Dust. Proceed with caution that you do not breathe this in, nor sprinkle it by your dog’s face or mouth, head, etc.
“DE” is fossilized remains of microscopic shells that act as shards of glass to winged insects. So fleas and ticks cannot become immune to the stuff, unlike harsh chemicals. Shards of glass will always be just that: shards of glass. I sprinkle this onto my hand and into my dog’s coat. Bonus: Word has it that this is a good bedbug deterrent, so I like traveling with it, too. It is not a one-time usage and then move on: This must be applied as needed.
With some breeds, including Cocker Spaniels, having a higher-than average incidence of Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA), the less chemicals seeping into my dog’s bloodstream through his skin the better. We opt for a non-chemical approach, but that does not mean you this is the approach for everyone. Double check with your dog’s vet and seek the advice of a holistic vet. Our last Cocker Spaniel had severe reactions to spot-on flea treatments, so we stay clear of those.
Here are a few products we use, NOT TOGETHER, but that we have found success with, and results may vary for you. These are some non-chemical options to flea and tick prevention.
Keep DEET-containing products away from dogs. They are designed for humans and not pets. DEET is highly toxic for pets.
Stop “tick taxis” in their tracks. Ticks can cling onto dogs and then hitch a ride into your home. Closely examine dogs before allowing them inside after a walk. Areas of interest include ears, face, eyelids, muzzle and paws. One time, before I went the natural route, a tick adhered to my dog’s head and I thought it was a growth. That nasty thing was removed before he could infect.
The one product I carry on my keyring and keep a spare in my dog’s first aid kit is the Tick Key. For a few bucks, this is a great tool to have on hand. Using natural forward leverage to remove the entire tick, this is the kind of product that pays for itself the first time you use it.