A flea is considered an insect, so it has 6 legs, and a tick is considered an arachnid, so it has 8 legs. Both fleas and ticks are external parasites that are found in the external environment. Ticks attach to a dog and will get their blood meal while they are attached. A flea will repeatedly bite the dog and release it.
Fleas and ticks are ubiquitous parasites, they are kind of everywhere out in the environment. Ticks are more often found in grassy and wooded areas, but fleas can be found anywhere.
Yes. Ticks typically attach to the dog, but dogs or cats can carry ticks into the home environment. If they are not attached, occasionally pet owners will find ticks wandering around their house. Sometimes ticks will be found on them that have actually come from the dogs. Since fleas don’t really attach to the dogs or cats, once they get into the house, they can infest the house with their eggs. So, the fleas can typically live in a house much more than ticks usually do.
Fleas cause a flea bite allergy, that we see a lot with dogs. You’ll see a lot of scratching in dogs after a bite. Fleas can carry bacteria that can cause the plague. That is more common in the southwestern United States, or in areas where the plague is more common. It also can carry another bacteria that’s sometimes found in Texas, but it’s not common. Fleas can also carry tapeworms. If we find tapeworms in your pet, we are sure that at some point in time the pet has had a flea infestation. It does not mean that they currently have a flea infestation, but somewhere along the lines they have had a flea infestation.
Ticks can carry diseases that you’re probably familiar with. Lyme Disease is the most common one, then there’s Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichiosis. Another one that is found, caused by the lone star tick, is more common in people than animals. This is alpha-gal syndrome, where the tick will bite you and inject protein into you that can make you allergic to proteins found in red meat.
Flea and tick prevention comes in multiple different types. There is a topical that you can put on by separating the skin and putting the topical right on the skin. There are flea and tick collars that you can put on. Put it around the dog or cat’s neck and it will last a period of time. The last, most common one is a chewable tablet that the dog eats, and it provides protection for an extended period of time.
It depends on the medication being used. The medication that we use here, Bravecto, has a 1 month prevention for the younger pets, as well as a 3 month prevention. Some of the collars have a label on them for up to 8 months of protection. The topical prevention typically lasts about 1 month.
Fleas are found almost everywhere, inside or outside, typically in grass. Ticks are more commonly found in wooded or grassy areas. In Texas, since it doesn’t get that cold in the winter, flea and tick season is year round. We recommend keeping your pets on flea and tick prevention year round.
Dogs that are outside, running around more often are at a greater risk. Hunting dogs or dogs running in the woods are more likely to come in contact with ticks as opposed to dogs at the dog park or dogs out for leash walks.
By visible inspection and simply looking at the dog. The ticks are usually attached. Look in their ears, and you can also find them throughout the body. Most of the time they are attached to the body, hooked in pretty good.
Most of the time you can see fleas on a dog. If your dog has been scratching badly or has broken hair over their tail, you can see fleas in that area. Sometimes you can see what's called flea dirt which is just flea droppings. If you see that on there, like little black specks, most likely they have a flea infestation. If you are suspicious of a flea infestation, you can also get a flea comb which is a fine toothed comb. Just comb that through the hair and it will pick the fleas out, and then you can visibly see them.
Any dog can get fleas or ticks. Fleas can jump from animal to animal, so if the dog comes in contact with animals, even if they are not outside a lot, just walking down the sidewalk a flea can jump on them. So, they definitely could get fleas or ticks. If they don’t spend a lot of time outside, they’re at less risk than other dogs, but overall, any dog can get fleas or ticks.
The prevention also doubles as the treatment. The medications that we typically use, there are a few that when you put them on, they repel the fleas and ticks. Most of the medications, the flea or tick has to actually attach and bite the dog before you can get the medication. Once you get those medications into them, it will kill the fleas and ticks.
The other important thing to remember is that you also have to treat the environment. We can’t just typically treat the dog with flea and tick prevention to prevent fleas. Once they get into an environment, especially a house, they can start laying eggs and go through their whole life cycle. So we need to stay on the medications to prevent them and break the life cycle.
The biggest thing to remember for every pet you have in the house is the risk of catching fleas. If you have multiple dogs and there are fleas in one dog, you need to treat every animal in the house, and remember to treat the environment for fleas as well.
The topical medication and prevention will kill the fleas. As you kill the fleas that are on the dog, remember that if your pet has had fleas, the fleas will be in the household and continue to lay eggs that will hatch. You will continue to see them for some time. For the most part, the prevention doubles as the treatment.
Any medication you administer in an animal has some risks, but the risks are fairly low. It depends on the specific type of treatment you elect to use, so read labels and talk to your veterinarian about the specific treatment you choose.
There are a lot of people that use different home remedies, but I am not convinced that any are efficacious. It is best to get the medications and use the prevention that doubles as treatment to hopefully break the life cycle and end your flea and tick problem.
When the fleas or ticks are gone, you won’t see any more of the parasites on the animal. Watch them closely, especially if your dog is allergic to fleas, when you get the infestation under control they will stop scratching, their hair will start growing back, and you won’t see the flea dirt on them. As far as ticks, you can visibly inspect and run your hands over the dog, and if you don’t feel or see the ticks, they most likely do not have a tick infestation anymore.
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