A pet parent’s worst nightmare is finding a dreaded little parasite that’s taken residency on their pup. But no need to worry — you can remove and prevent flea and ticks on your dogs at home.
Most pet owners don’t know much about fleas and ticks, except that they’re a nuisance to our dogs. In reality, these parasites can cause serious health issues when ignored or improperly treated.
It’s crucial to know what to do when you find ticks on a dog, where these parasites come from, the dangers they pose in your household, and which preventive measures you should take to ensure your pup stays flea and tick-free.
The Difference Between Fleas and Ticks
Did you know that fleas can pull over 100,000 times their weight, which is equivalent to a human pulling 2,679 double-decker buses?
And were you aware that female ticks lay up to 3,000 eggs, with some species laying up to 20,000?
Despite almost always being grouped together, ticks and fleas are separate parasites. The differences between the parasites don’t end with how much weight they pull or eggs they lay; flea and tick bites on dogs also pose different risks.
Fleas are the most common external parasite dogs encounter and can jump two feet high, even without wings. Fleas latch on to our furry friends because they feed on blood.
Ticks also feed on their host animal’s blood, but their presence isn’t always as obvious as their flea friends. Even scarier, female ticks can transmit harmful diseases through their bite. Male ticks do latch to a host but don’t feed on blood, and do not transmit diseases.
How to Find Fleas & Ticks on Dogs
So where do dogs get fleas and ticks? The unfortunate answer: Anywhere.
Ticks are found in almost every part of the world in a variety of climates, and while fleas prefer moist and humid regions, they still survive in most environments. These parasites are most common in warmer months but can come in contact with our pets any time of year.
Animals often romp around outdoors which puts them at risk of parasites latching on to them. However, even indoor cats can get fleas and ticks if they lounge on a patio or interact with an infected dog. Ticks, for instance, latch on to canines by waiting in grass or bushes and attaching to the pup as they wander.
Fleas and ticks are attracted to the warm fur of dogs and cats to flourish. Since females lay up to 50 eggs a day, it’s easy for your home to become infested quickly.
Aside from a home infestation, there are many reasons why pet owners should know how to spot and remove fleas and ticks from their animals. These parasites feed on our pets’ blood and can cause health issues, from small allergic reactions to life-threatening tick-borne illnesses.
Here’s how to find ticks and fleas on dogs, based on common symptoms of each:
Symptoms of Fleas on Dogs
Fleas are normally found a dog’s abdomen, head, and base of the tail. Your pup may experience these symptoms if they have fleas:
- Flea droppings (dark specks in fur, similar to a grain of sand)
- Flea eggs (white specks or grains in the fur)
- Hot spots and scabs
- Excessive licking, biting, scratching of the skin
- Allergic dermatitis
- Hair loss
- Pale gums
Symptoms of Ticks on Dogs
Unlike fleas, ticks don’t affect animals with visible signs of discomfort and pain, like itching or hair loss. Ticks are often found inside and around the ears, head, and feet; however, it’s not uncommon to find a tick on the mouth, belly, face, leg, or paw.
- Ticks can be visible to the naked eye (usually after they bite and swell with blood)
- Dogs who spend a lot of time outside are more prone to ticks, so always run your hands over them when they come inside (be sure to check for ticks on your dog’s paws!)
Dangers of Fleas and Ticks
Symptoms of fleas and ticks aren’t just bothersome side effects, like an itchy bug bite a human might experience. Fleas and ticks can pose real threats to canines, especially when they go untreated.
Ticks only breed when they’re feeding; therefore when a tick is feeding on your dog, it will begin to multiply and escalate the issue.
For every flea you find on your pet, veterinarians estimate there are about 100 more in your home.
When ticks and fleas enter your home both you and your pup are at risk of harmful diseases. Below are some of the major and most common risks associated with fleas and ticks:
Anemia is caused by a dangerous drop in red blood cells, often triggering pale gums and a drastic lack of energy.
Too much blood loss can cause an animal to develop anemia. Though both parasites feed on animals, fleas are especially dangerous as they can take in 15 times their weight in blood.
Lyme disease is a well-known bacterial infection that affects humans and animals alike. Common symptoms of Lyme disease include lymph node swelling, loss of appetite, fever, swollen joints, kidney failure, and depression.
The most common carrier of Lyme disease for both humans and canines is the deer tick.
Cytauxzoonosis is a lethal infection for cats caused by ticks; felines suffering from Cytauxzoonosis may experience a high fever, difficulty breathing, low appetite, jaundice, coma, and death.
The blood parasite that causes Cytauxzoonosis is mostly found in the Southern United States and is carried by bobcats.
Flea allergies can potentially be harmful to both dogs and cats, causing itching, hair loss, irritated skin, scabbing, and other dangerous skin infections.
Canines run the risk of developing flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) which could lead to destructive bacterial infections.
Diseases caused by fleas and ticks aren’t exclusive to our pets. Most of the dangers discussed above can affect humans just as much as animals.
One of the biggest risks humans face in a tick or flea-infested home is tick paralysis. Symptoms of tick paralysis include tingling, numbness, and weakness throughout the body.
By learning how to prevent a dog from ticks you’re not just saving your pup from these risks, but also yourself.
Dog Flea and Tick Removal
A pet parent’s first instinct is to start pulling fleas and ticks off their pup. It’s important not to panic and to make sure you are carefully removing the parasite from your dog to avoid worsening the bite and to keep yourself safe.
Safe ways to remove ticks and fleas:
- Put on Gloves
Cover your hands with gloves or use a tissue to avoid infecting yourself.
- Grasp the Head
Spread your pet’s fur and use tweezers to pinch the parasite near its head, close to the animal’s skin. Be sure to use fine-point tweezers, as larger ones can tear the tick and spread infections into the bite area.
- Pull Straight Up
Pull the tick straight up to remove it from your pet’s skin – do not twist it!
- Clean the Area
Wash the bite area on your animal with rubbing alcohol, disinfect your tweezers, and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
Always make sure you are effectively removing the parasite cleanly and safely. If you don’t, your pet will be at risk of harmful flea and tick fluids going right back into the bite area.
Keep in mind:
- Never use gasoline, nail polish, alcohol, or a hot match to remove a parasite
- Do not squeeze or pop the bloated flea or tick belly
- Don’t remove a tick with your fingers
Don’t worry if some of the tick’s “mouth parts” are left embedded in the skin as these alone are rarely harmful.
If you have a particularly active outdoor pet, it may be beneficial to purchase a tick removal hook. These work instead of tweezers and are specifically designed to remove ticks safely. The Tick Nipper from the American Red Cross and the Tick Tornado ZenPet tool are two of our favorites.
If your dog has worsening symptoms after removal, consult your vet as it could be related to a harmful tick disease. If your dog has a fever or develops a lump from a tick bite, call your veterinarian.
Removing ticks and fleas is a fairly simple at-home fix. However, it’s always best to talk to a veterinary physician about your pet’s health.
Tick and Flea Prevention for Dogs
Keeping your home tick and flea-free is important for your animal’s health, as well as your own. These parasites don’t discriminate – dog fleas and ticks will also bite humans.
Ticks and fleas can jump from your pet to you to feed then lay eggs in your carpet, bedding, and other household furniture.
Below are four of the safest and most common methods of flea and tick prevention for dogs:
- Prescription pills: Obtaining a prescription from your veterinarian is the safest and most effective way to both prevent and treat parasites.
- Shampoos: There are several flea and tick shampoos that help kill parasites when found on your dog. Shampoos are short-team treatments and should be followed up by a visit to your vet.
- Tick Collars: A tick collar works to keep parasites off your pup while they’re outside, and should be used in tandem with other preventive measures.
- Spot treatments: Non-prescription flea and tick spot treatments don’t require a prescription; however you should still consult your vet about which one to use.
You should always talk to a veterinarian about which preventive option is best for your pet. Your vet will be able to prescribe dog flea and tick medicine, recommend safe products for preventive measures and give you hands-on demonstrations on removing parasites at home.
If the thought of making trips to the vet stresses out you and your wallet, consider adding our Prime Preventive Care to your Prudent Pet Accident or Comprehensive plan. This optional plan add-on will reimburse you for purchasing flea prevention from your vet.
Your pup deserves the best care possible. Get a free pet insurance quote from Prudent Pet today!
The information provided on this website is made available for educational purposes only. It should in no way be substituted for professional veterinary assessment of each individual patient by a suitably qualified veterinary surgeon or veterinarian.