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It only takes one.
Fleas and ticks are small parasites barely visible to the naked eye. And both pose dangers to your dog. Depending on where you live, flea and tick season can be year round, especially where the winters are mild. That’s why pet parents should protect their fur friends 365 days a year.
Your pets can also be exposed to fleas and ticks in social settings. Dog parks, grooming facilities, kennels, and doggie daycares are risks too. And while fleas and ticks have the potential to transmit diseases to your pet it can happen to you as well.
What are fleas?
One flea can be brought into your home on you, or your pet. Because of how quickly they can hatch and multiply that one flea can cause an infestation. They can survive outdoors in temperatures as low as 0.5C for as long as five days. Flea eggs can live year round in protected areas such as garages, crawl spaces, and porches.
According to the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society, fleas feed by sucking blood from mammals and birds. They are uncomfortable for your pet and can cause skin irritation, itching, redness, swelling and sometimes allergic reaction to flea bites. It is also possible for your pet to become anemic (low red blood cell count), which can become a serious condition. Your pet can also become infected with tapeworm if they ingest fleas carrying a larval tapeworm.
Fleas typically stick to one host during their lifetime. Their eggs can drop out onto rugs, upholstery, bedding and furniture. New adult fleas will, in turn, find their living host (either human or animal).
To check for fleas on your pet, use a flea comb. Comb the hair against the fur to see the skin. A tell-tale sign is if you can see “flea dirt” left on their fur or spots of dried blood that look like black pepper. If your dog is infected, consult your veterinarian about treatment.
How to prevent fleas
Since dogs are more likely to bring these parasites in from the outside, it’s important to clean your pet’s bedding and any surface they lay on frequently, like blankets, cushions, carpets, and couches. Be sure to dispose of vacuumed dirt since flea eggs can hatch and multiply while still in the vacuum canister.
If your home has a yard, you can treat the lawn with fleas and tick lawn care as a form of pest control. Mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and keeping brush cleared will all help prevent them from living on your property.
Can indoor-only pets get fleas?
Feral cats and wildlife can bring fleas into your yard. Once established, they can easily be brought into the home by you or an untreated pet that is allowed outdoors.
If you have multiple pets, or dogs and cats in your household, it’s important to treat them with the appropriate preventative medicine. Never use flea and tick prevention for dogs on cats. It can make cats sick and, in some cases, cause death.
What are ticks?
Ticks – members of the spider family - are ground-dwellers. They jump from low shrubbery, or the ground to latch onto your pet. They are usually found in between the toes, on the neck, head, around the ears, and the front or underside part of the chest.
Ticks are more active in the late summer and early fall. But they’re around in the spring and summer too, especially in wooded areas. Ticks can be active in temperatures ranging from 4C and as low as 0C.
Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, a serious illness which can be spread by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Any contact with the tick’s blood can potentially transmit infection to your pet or even you.There is a deadly manifestation of Lyme disease in dogs, called Lyme nephritis. It can be a fatal side effect that causes the animal's kidney to fail.
If you walk in natural areas, always check your pet. To remove ticks from your pet, be sure to wear gloves, use a tweezer to securely remove the tick’s head from its body. Remove any remaining parts of the tick and clean the area with an antiseptic wipe.
Is flea and tick prevention necessary year-round?
Fleas can lay dormant over the winter in cold climates but if they are established inside your home where it is warm they can still cause infestations. Many species of ticks are hardy and can remain active during the winter months.
Your veterinarian can recommend specific brands and products, most of which come in the form of chewable pills, topical treatments, and flea collars. Some medications may kill fleas and ticks with combined heartworm prevention.
Dog insurance may be a good option if you live in an area that is prone to fleas and ticks as a way to protect your dog from repeated infections or illness.
Most insurers do not cover monthly flea and tick prevention. But the Advanced Wellness coverage with Spot Pet Insurance, for example, is a type of plan which can reimburse owners for flea and heartworm prevention.