Fleas and Ticks: A Guide for Dog Owners

Rohan Mathew

Although they are usually more common in the spring and autumn seasons, ticks and fleas can be a plague for your home and your beloved dog at any time of the year. These pests can be annoying and painful to deal with, and they can often be difficult to fully remove from a home once they have taken hold. As a responsible pet parent, you know that your dog’s soft fur is a very appealing home for ticks and fleas. From excessive scratching to more serious conditions such as Lyme disease, ticks and fleas can cause no end of problems for you, your dog, and your family.

Prevention is definitely better than a cure when it comes to these annoying insects. Don’t wait until your dog has ticks or fleas before you do something about it – employing a range of preventative measures to keep them away is always best. So, what can you do to keep your dog flea and tick free?

Use a Regular Flea Prevention Treatment:

Fleas and ticks can be prevented by making sure that your dog has a preventative treatment every few weeks. You can usually get these treatments from your vet or you can purchase them at any reputable pet shop. They often come in the form of a spot-on solution that is applied to your dog’s skin behind their head, or you can give them to your dog in the form of a tablet hidden in their food. When you give your dog a bath, it’s a good idea to use a specially formulated shampoo that is designed to both prevent and kill fleas. Always read the label before giving your dog a flea prevention treatment and consult with your vet if you have any questions and concerns. Flea prevention treatments that are designed for cats are not usually safe for dogs unless stated otherwise on the packaging.

Check for Fleas Regularly:

It’s a good idea to get into a regular habit of checking your dog over for fleas, even if you are using a regular preventative treatment. Fleas will often be found on the areas of your dog’s body where the coat is usually thinner such as their armpits, belly, and the inside of their back legs. Fleas are very tiny and appear either brown or black in colour, so they might be easier to spot on a light-coloured dog compared to a darker one. You will often be able to spot a flea moving around quickly on your dog’s fur. If you can’t see any actual fleas, another tell-tale sign is ‘flea dirt’, which appear as tiny dark spots on the fur.

Check After Walking Your Dog:

After going outside, your dog is at a higher risk of picking up fleas and ticks on her coat. And even if you are using a regular spot-on treatment or another form of flea and tick prevention, it’s important to realise that these are not always 100% effective. After walking through any grassy areas with your dog, it’s a wise idea to check both yourself and your dog for ticks. When checking your dog for ticks, some of the most common places that they are attracted to on the body include around the eyes and ears, under the legs, under the tail, and under your dog’s collar. Gently feel your dog all over their body to find any unusual bumps that might be the result of a tick bite.

Preventing Ticks and Fleas with Regular Grooming:

Regular grooming is essential for most dogs, keeping their coat in good condition and free from mats and dirt. However, this is not the only purpose that it serves; grooming is a good time to bond with your dog but it also gives you the chance to visually inspect them for any fleas, ticks and other parasites. While bathing your dog should be done infrequently for most breeds depending on the individual factors, you can brush your dog regularly using a flea comb which will make it easier for you to visually identify any fleas or flea dirt that might be lurking in their coat. When you give your dog a bath on a regular basis or because they’ve gotten dirty rolling in mud, it’s worth using a shampoo that is formulated to prevent and kill fleas and ticks while keeping your dog looking and feeling her best.

How to Treat Fleas:

While not all flea prevention treatments are going to be 100% effective, the good news is that by catching fleas early, you can get rid of them easier. If you have several dogs and one of them is showing signs of having fleas like excessive scratching, the best thing to do is assume that the fleas are already laying eggs in the coats of your other dogs and make sure that they are all treated for it. After giving your dogs a flea treatment from your vet, make sure that their bedding, blankets, soft toys, and anything else where the fleas may have been transferred to are washed at the highest temperature possible or replaced. If you suspect that the fleas have made their way into your carpets, rugs and soft furnishings, you can use a fumigator fogger, a flea spray, or call in a professional to help.

How to Deal with Ticks:

If you find a tick on your dog, it’s best to make sure that it is removed as quickly as possible. Ticks look different to fleas since they have eight legs and are sometimes larger, although they do vary in size. They can often be felt underneath the fur, so it’s easier to identify a tick on your dog even if you can’t see it. The earlier the tick is removed from your dog, the lower their risk of getting sick with a tick-related illness. Your vet can also remove the tick safely from your dog for you. This guide from Bella and Duke talks you through both avoiding ticks on dogs and how to safely remove a tick from your dog at home. Bella and Duke also offer tick prevention products made with natural ingredients that will work to make your dog less attractive to these insects and prevent bites.

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Recognising the Signs:

It is a wise idea to familiarise yourself with the common signs of fleas and ticks in dogs so that you can act quickly if your dog is affected. Sometimes, fleas and ticks on a dog are not always obvious to the naked eye, especially if your dog is dark in colour or long-haired. Some of the common signs that your dog is suffering from flea or tick bites including biting at their skin or fur, excessive scratching, irritated skin, and pale gums. If you have noticed any of these signs in your dog, your vet can help you get to the root of the problem and prescribe a treatment to help.

Fleas and ticks are not only a problem for dogs, but they can quickly become an issue for humans with their bites and risk to health. As a responsible dog parent, it’s important to take preventative steps against fleas and ticks and act quickly if you find either one of them on your dog.