Can you pull fleas off your dog?
Fleas and Ticks
Ticks are gross—they are, essentially, blood-sucking parasites that feed off warm-blooded animals and they have a particular preference for dogs. Ticks are parasitic arachnids; this means they have eight legs and that they live on the blood and tissue of their host animal. They’re found in wooded, grassy areas and hang out on the edges of leaves, twigs, and grasses, so that they can drop on a potential host as it passes nearby. They do not jump or fly.
Once a tick lands on its potential host, it will try to travel to a warm, dark crevice to attach and feed—think armpits, ears, and belly folds. A tick attaches to its host via its mandibles (jaw) and inserts a feeding tube directly into the superficial capillaries of the host organism. Because they attach with their head and jaw, they tend to burrow slightly beneath the skin. This is why it is vitally important to make sure the tick head is removed with the tick body to prevent additional infection and discomfort.
Flea’s are equally as gross. They are a parasitic six-legged insect that feeds on the blood of their hosts. Their bodies are wingless but made for jumping and their compressed shape means that it’s easy for them to run through the hair of your dog. Flea’s thrive in warm, humid condition and a female flea requires a “blood meal” in order to lay her eggs. Their droppings, the reddish-brown “flea dirt” that you see on your pet, is actually what larvae need to feed on to live.
How Do I Know if my Pet Has Fleas or Ticks?
Checking your Dog for Ticks
To get started checking your dog for ticks, you may want to start by petting your dog to get them comfortable and relaxed. This way, they will release their muscles and you can better manipulate their limbs to check in sensitive places, like armpits, where ticks love to hang out.
- Put on a pair of latex gloves. Humans are susceptible to infection from tick diseases, and taking this precaution helps protect you from illness.
- Feel for small bumps and ridges all over your pet’s coat. Typically, you will first recognize a tick through touch. They are small, round, and smooth and most species have a hard exterior.
- Examine the crevices between skin folds, especially under the arms and legs of your pet. Ticks love a warm, dark place to hide out and are likely to be burrowed into these places on your pet’s body. Also, don’t forget the areas in and around their ears!
- Pull back the fur around a suspicious area to inspect. Depending on the length and thickness of your pet’s fur, you may have to go to more trouble to part the hair, so you can see your pet’s skin underneath.
Be thorough with your inspection. This may mean that you have to get out a fine-tooth comb and go over every inch of your pet’s wiry and thick coat. It may be a bit of a chore, but it is certainly worth it—the longer a tick stays on a dog or cat only increases the risk for disease transmission and infection.
Checking Your Dog for Fleas
In severe infestations, it’s easy to spot fleas jumping and moving on and off your dog’s body. In less obvious situations, you may notice that your dog is restless and is scratching, licking or chewing more than normal on certain areas of her body. Shaking the head often and scratching at the ears is another indication of a possible flea infestation in your dog. In order to see actual fleas on your dog, you may have to look fast. Fleas can jump very fast and very high, and even at their adult size they are very small (1/16-1/8 in.). They are flat-bodied and dark brown, almost black, in color. The more blood they ingest the lighter in color they may appear.
To inspect your dog, turn her onto her back and check the areas that allow fleas to hide best. The armpits and groin are two areas that tend to be warm and protected, making them preferred spots for large flea populations. Check the ears carefully for signs of scratching, redness, blood, or dirt. These can all be signs of fleas. The skin on the belly, groin, or base of the tail may appear red and bumpy, especially if your dog is doing a lot of scratching. Hair loss may occur in certain areas that are being scratched excessively, and there may be black spots on the skin along with scabbing. Get a flea comb (a specially made comb with closely set teeth) and run it through the hair on your dog’s back and legs. The comb’s teeth are designed to catch and pull fleas out from under the hair coat where they are hiding. Make sure you get close to the skin when running the comb through the hair, so you have a greater chance of getting to where the fleas are hiding out. Have a bowl of soapy water on hand to throw any live fleas into as you comb.
One trick that may help you if the fleas are hard to see is to place a white piece of paper or paper towel on the floor next to or beneath your dog while coming through her hair. Flea dirt (flea feces) will fall off of the dog’s skin and land on the paper. One way to tell the difference between regular dirt and flea “dirt” is to wet any black specks that fall off the dog onto the white paper towel (using regular water sprinkled on the specks). If they turn a dark reddish-brown color, you are seeing the digested blood that the flea has passed through its body and excreted.
Removing Fleas and Ticks
When examining your pet, remember—depending on its species and life stage, a tick can be as small as a pencil point, or as large as a bean (if it’s engorged). If you find a tick on the coat that hasn’t attached yet, just brush or pick it off and dispose of it. If you find a tick attached to your pet’s skin, don’t panic—it doesn’t necessarily mean disease. However, it’s important to remove the tick properly. If you have never removed a tick, please visit your veterinarian to learn how to do this correctly. After tick removal, you may want to keep it sealed tightly in a jar, so you can show it to your veterinarian, who knows which potential disease the particular tick species can transmit.
Most flea problems aren’t usually concentrated at just one particular location of your house. If you have a dog in your home, it is more than likely that they’ve spread the fleas everywhere they’ve gone to. A dog or cat is basically a 24/7 operating shuttle for fleas to hop on and off wherever they want to. It is very important to get rid of the fleas and eggs in your whole house and on your dog’s/cats simultaneously.
There are many oral and topical flea/tick treatments available for dogs. It is best to speak with your veterinarian to choose which product would be best suited for your dog and lifestyle.
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Fleas & Ticks
Fleas are the most common external parasite of companion animals. They live by consuming the blood of their hosts. Adults fleas are about 3 mm long and brown in color. Their bodies are flattened sideways which enables them to easily move through their host’s fur and they have strong claws that prevent them from being dislodged. They also have hind legs that are adapted for jumping which allows them to leap up to 50 times their body length. Stray cats and dogs, raccoons and rabbits can carry flea eggs into your yard. Fleas can survive in lows as cold as 28F and highs up to 95F.
Severe flea infestation on kitten (blameitonlove.wordpress.com)
Many pet owners are surprised to learn their pet has fleas because they have not noticed them. In many cases we do not see the fleas until a thorough exam is performed. This is because many animals lick, groom and chew after being bitten by a flea, causing the flea to either jump off, or get swallowed by the pet.
Fleas are dangerous because they can cause a number of health problems with our pets including:
• Anemia (low red blood cell count in the body) due to blood loss. This anemia can be life threatening in smaller or very young animals and even in larger animals, if there is a heavy flea infestation present.
• Severe itching which leads to hair loss and secondary skin infections. In fact, some animals are allergic to flea bites and they will develop a condition called flea allergy dermatitis. This is commonly found in dogs and cats and can be very uncomfortable and requires medical treatment to resolve.
• A bacterial infection called Bartonella that is transmitted when they bite. This not only causes health issues in dogs and cats but can affect people as well.
• A type of intestinal tapeworm called Dipylidium caninum can be transmitted if a dog or cat ingests the flea. The flea body contains an immature form of the parasite and if ingested will mature in the intestine of the dog or cat and compete for the nutrients of the pet.
The flea life cycle consists of egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages.
1) Eggs are laid in the hair coat and fall off your pet into your home.
2) Larvae hatch from the eggs and develop in a pet’s environment by feeding on adult flea feces (i.e. digested blood) that falls out of the hair coat of the pet.
3) Larvae eventually spin cocoons, often within carpet fibers, for pupation. The pupae in the cocoons are resistant to freezing, drying, and insecticides, and can lie dormant for many months!
4) New fleas develop from pupae and can begin feeding within hours of finding a dog or cat. The entire flea life cycle can be completed in as little as three weeks.
We diagnose a flea infestation by either seeing adult fleas or by using a flea comb and pulling flea “dirt”. Flea dirt is actually flea fecal material. Fleas take blood meals of your pet and their fecal material contains blood. If we rinse flea dirt with a small amount of water on a white paper towel, the spots will turn a rusty brown.
Flea Dirt (free stock illustration.com)
Fleas are very difficult problem to solve and certainly prevention is much less expensive and stressful than treatment. One female adult flea produces 40 to 50 eggs per day. You can see how quickly this can get out of control. The other issue is that only about 1% of the population of fleas, eggs and larvae live on your pet and the other 99% live in the environment. That is to say, they exist in your homes carpet, bedding, couches, clothing, etc. This makes treatment very frustrating.
Treatment includes treating EVERY pet in the house (dogs and cats) for ideally 6 months, at a minimum of 3 months, with an oral or topical flea and tick medication. Products we carry for dogs include: Frontline Gold topical, Nexgard oral and Bravecto oral medications. Products we carry for cats include: Frontline Gold topical, Revolution topical and Bravecto topical.
Treatment also includes aggressively treating the environment. This may take multiple treatments and includes: spot sprays (i.e. Knockout) and room foggers (i.e. Adams or Raid) and washing all bedding in areas where the pet sleeps. We have Knockout spray and Adams room fogger products available.
It is also recommended to vacuum all floors multiple times and then replace the bag or wash out the vacuum canister thoroughly. Remember, fleas thrive particularly well in the well-regulated temperatures in the home and love to develop in carpeting and the cracks between the boards of hard wood floors.
It may take multiple repeated treatments to eliminate the fleas and their entire life cycle of larvae and eggs. By the time you see active fleas on your pet they have been living in your home for at least 2 months.
Of course, after this infestation has been resolved, we recommend monthly flea/tick preventative for all your pets.
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts. They are attracted to motion, body heat, and carbon dioxide exhaled by mammals making people, dogs, cats and other mammals their ideal hosts.
The two most common ticks we have in this area are the American Dog tick and the Deer tick. They are slightly different in appearance and the Deer ticks are smaller than the Dog ticks.
Deer ticks are the ticks responsible for transmitting diseases in our area.
Deer ticks attach to the host to take a blood meal and in the process of taking this meal they can transmit bacterial diseases to the host. The nymph Deer ticks are almost microscopic in size so you may never know your dog was ever bitten by one.
Anaplasmosis and Lyme disease are the two most common tick diseases that we encounter in our area. These tick diseases cause potentially life-threatening symptoms and cause your pet pain and suffering.
Some symptoms of Lyme disease include:
• Stiffness and reluctance to move
• Swollen joints
• Shifting leg lameness
• Enlarged lymph nodes
• Rarely neurologic signs are noted
• The most serious potential consequence of Lyme disease is a type of kidney damage that leads to acute and progressive kidney failure.
Some symptoms of Anaplasmosis include:
• Stiffness and reluctance to move
• Swollen joints
• Shifting leg lameness
• Enlarged lymph nodes
• Signs of uncontrolled internal bleeding, such as bloody nose, bruising, and dark blood in the stool.
We recommend protecting your pet in multiple ways:
• TESTING FOR EXPOSURE: Screening dogs yearly for exposure to Lyme and Anaplasmosis organisms is important. We do this by using a simple in-house combination heartworm/tick disease screening blood test.
• VACCINATION: Vaccination against Lyme disease to allow your pet to develop immunity against the bacteria responsible for causing this disease. This vaccine requires 2 initial boosters 2 to 3 weeks apart and is then repeated annually.
• FLEA/TICK PREVENTATIVES: To reduce the risk of transmission of other tick diseases to your pet. We have both topical and oral flea and tick preventative products available.