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How to Safely Prevent Fleas and Ticks on Dogs

flea prevention

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.

golden retriever

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.

sheepdog

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.

flea dust

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.

cute dogs

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.

What are you doing to control/prevent fleas and ticks this year? Bark at us in the comments below.

 

A dog lover of the highest order is how Gayle King introduced Carol Bryant, when she appeared with her Cocker Spaniel on Oprah Radio’s Gayle King show to dish dogs. Carol created and owns the trademark, My Heart Beats Dog® and lives that mantra. A 30-year veteran of the dog world, she is President of the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the 2020 DWAA winner for Best Dog Blog.

Comments

  1. Shelly PoochParkWear says

    I spray the house during this season with a solution of Lemon Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar and water, spray it on her when she is itching but also becos she is in the parks a lot plus with other dogs I do use Frontline although I hate using it, I just have found that its the best for her

  2. Deborah Thompson says

    We have also used geranium oil. You put it on your dog’s collar, harness, lead, etc. It is a repellent; it doesn’t kill them. Sophie Rose doesn’t mind the smell, but JAZZ hates it. So this year, I am experimenting with citrus oil and/or lavender oil. Both are also supposed to repel fleas/ticks.

  3. M. K. Clinton says

    We have been very fortunate not to have fleas or ticks. I have used Frontline although I do not like using chemicals on Bentley & Pierre. I will probably use it one more time while we are gone to BlogPaws and they are in the Bed & Biscuit. Hopefully, I can get more alternatives talking to fellow pet parents! I don’t know about powder on Bentley with his sensitive nose.

  4. May Ford says

    Fleas seem to be everywhere, Good thing that there are also a lot of preventive solutions and remedies for them.

  5. David louvet says

    I’ve found that the only way to prevent fleas is to actually manage them bc every year fleas and ticks become more resistant to chemicals. I use a 4 step natural method by Innovet pet products. 1. I clean the house every week and use a natural lemongrass spray (BioPel spray)to kill insects instantly or use one that you like 2. Wash my pet with my favorite shampoo every few weeks. I use Earthbath 3. Use a supplement to boost my pets immune system to help get rid of insects from the inside out (BioPel plus) 4. Use a lotion that has repelling properties and rub/ add it to my pets coat every few days. Their leave in conditioner uses neem and lemongrass oil. Repels from the outside in

  6. Jennifer says

    If you are using DE, MAKE SURE THAT IT IS FGDE( FOOD GRADE DIATOMACEOUS EARTH). Regular DE, the kind used in swimming pool filters contains toxins!!!
    I use PERMAGUARD FGDE, which I purchase on Amazon. A 50 pound bag is about $60 delivered to my door.

    I also use NEEM PRO 100 Neem Oil. It is the most potent Neem Oil available that I have been able to find and it DOES kill fleas. I use a 90/10 mix- 10% Neem Pro 100 & 90% REAL EV Olive Oil. I rub itinto their coats 2-3 times a week during peak flea season. After a bath massage The Neem Oil into their coats. discoverneem.com for more information about using Neem oil.

    There are many essential oils that are very effective at repelling fleas. Make up a 1 quart sprayer using 1 TSP Dawn Dish Soap with 4-5 different pet safe essential oils using 5-7 drops of each. Start with Lavender, Pennroyal, Lemongrass, Eucalyptus, Lemon, Cinnamon Bark, Peppermint, Cedarwood, Rose Geranium, Balsam Fur or Clove Bud and verify safety based on your type/breed of pet. Citronella EO. Is also a very good deterrent, but should never be used directly on fur or skin. Citronella is very fragrant so not much is needed. I put 1 drop on my dogs collar.
    Dogs are more EO friendly that cats, so if you have cats be very careful.

    You can also mix 3 TSP of Neem Oil with 1 TSP Dawn Dish Soap and 1 liter of warm water. Using a garden sprayer, spray your entire house, especially the carpets, furniture and crevices.

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