Flea and tick treatment for dogs

In this article we'll discuss flea and tick treatment for dogs. It's important to understand the signs and myths about fleas and ticks so you know what to do when your pet is affected.

Flea Control

Fleas are most often seen during the warmer months but as we keep our homes nice and warm throughout winter, we see fleas all year round. Only a small part of the adult flea population actually lives on your pet. The fleas’ eggs and larvae live in the environment and can survive for up to a year, so it is important to not only treat your animal directly for fleas but also decontaminate the environment as well.  Wash your pet’s bedding using the hottest cycle and regularly vacuum/clean carpets. We do not recommend flea collars or flea shampoos alone as they fail to address the environmental flea infestation anddo not protect the animals full body.

Fleas will tend to jump onto your pet only to feed and then jump off again. Dogs and cats can have a reaction to flea saliva resulting in a skin condition called Flea Allergy Dermatitis or FAD. Treatment of FAD can be complicated and veterinary consultation is recommended. Fleas also carry Tapeworm, which humans can pick up from their animals.

If you would like to ensure you never miss a dose, set up a flea treatment schedule with your vet. Most will deliver to your door.

Some signs that your pet may have fleas include:

  • Scratching, biting and hair loss, especially at the base of the tail and rump
  • You may see fleas (especially over the rump and in the groin region) although fleas onyl spend 5% of their time on your pet. The rest of the time they are EVERYWHERE ELSE IN YOUR HOUSE!
  • It can be difficult to find the fleas, but is relatively easy to check for flea dirt.  Simply moisten a cotton ball, part your pet’s fur and place the cotton ball on the skin over the rump. If the cotton ball takes on black specs surrounded by a reddish area, this may be flea dirt and can indicate that your pet has fleas.

Some common myths about fleas:

  • "My pet doesn't scratch - he/she doesn't have fleas" - some animals will not scratch when they have fleas, so just because your pet doesn't scratch doesn't necessarily mean they don't have fleas.
  • "I checked my pet and I couldn't see any fleas" - We only see 5% of the actual flea life cycle (the adult), which will jump on and off your pet, so just because you don't see a flea, doesn't mean there aren't any. There are egss, lavae and pupae to consider as well, which will grow into adult fleas over varying timeframes.
  • "I've treated my pet once for fleas, that will cover him/her for the next few months" - all flea treatment is a monthly preventative - that means, to stay on top of the flea lifecycle, you must apply a flea treatment to your pet every month, especially during the warmer months.

Warning: Some non-veterinary brands of flea treatments for dogs are potentially lethal when applied to cats. Always seek veterinary advice about the best flea treatments for your pet.

Warning: Supermarket brand spot-on's can cause serious skin problems. Please consult with a Veterinarian or Vet Nurse before applying products not recommended by a Vet.

Tick Control

Ticks can attach to pets during the warmer months, particularly if they are allowed to run through scrub. Ticks may also hitch a ride back with you or a neighbour in cars, rugs, towels or plants.

If you notice a tick on a pet, remove the tick straight away.To do this, grasp the tick firmly where it attaches to your pet’s skin and give a quick sideways pull. It is better not to try and kill the tick first as the dying tick may inject more of its potent toxin into your pet. If you are not confident removing the tick please call us immediately to make an appointment to have it removed.  Once the tick is removed your pet should be kept cool and quiet whilst being closely monitored for 24 hours. If your pet starts to display any signs, such as vomiting, weakness, staggering, breathing difficulty, or altered bark, seek immediate veterinary attention as this is a genuine veterinary emergency. If your pet is showing any of the above signs, do not offer food or water as these may be accidentally inhaled in tick-affected dogs.

Treatment of tick paralysis includes searching for and removing all ticks. This may include clipping the animal completely and/or the use of medication to kill remaining ticks. Tick antiserum is administered to counteract the toxin and supportive care is provided during recovery. This can be costly in comparison to what it would cost to use tick prevention initially. However, no tick prevention is 100% effective and should always be used in combination with daily searches of your pet. Searching your pet shouldn’t cease once you return from tick-affected regions but should continue for at least 7 days after returning home. Use your fingers to feel over the entire body, especially under the collar, on the face and around the front of your pet. Don’t forget to check carefully between the toes, under the lips and in the ears.

For more advice on flea and tick control for dogs speak with your local vet!