Dog Flea & Tick - Protecting Your Dog From Fleas & Ticks

How does my dog get fleas and ticks?

Well, the most obvious place would be the environment, outside would be a common area for your dogs to pick these things up, especially for fleas in damp, hot, and humid places—often under decks or shaded trees or shrubbery is a good place where fleas like to live. Ticks are just about everywhere where there is grass. And so your dog can pick these things up from just being outside, also from being around other animals that have fleas and ticks.

Dr. Mitch McKee
Cupola Animal Hospitals - Berry Farms Animal Hospital

Can fleas and ticks spread from my dog to my family and my home?

They can. Some people are sensitive to flea bites; they can cause an allergic reaction. Probably more harmful would be a tick transfer from your pet to you because we know that there are many harmful diseases that ticks carry, some of which are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, things that could very well cause human illness and our pets to be sick too.

Can my dog get fleas and ticks if they're primarily an indoor dog?

That's a question that we get a lot, and it's often what people will say as a reason why they're not using some type of flea and tick prevention for their indoor pets. But the simple answer to that is yes. And whether you want to believe it or not, you can be a source of transfer to your pets, mainly depending upon your environment and how much you're outside. You could also bring ticks in. If you have other pets that go outside, they can bring in some of these creatures too. So you are putting your pets at risk, even if they're indoor-only, to pick up fleas and ticks because you can bring them in on your own clothing.

What health problems can fleas and ticks cause?

The most common health problems we see from fleas and ticks, specifically fleas, would be severe allergic skin disease and irritation. It can be severe to the point where the skin becomes very raw, irritated, and hair begins to fall out. You can also get some bloodborne diseases from fleas. Most commonly, the tick diseases we see related to transfer to your dog are diseases like Lyme disease that can cause severe joint problems. Ehrlichia is also a pretty common one in dogs that can cause some joint discomfort and sometimes some long-term adverse effects on kidney function. And other tick diseases sometimes can cause acute illness, but often they can cause chronic illness that maybe we don't even know about until years later.

What are the different types of flea and tick preventative treatments out there?

Well, there's quite a wide array. For years and years, topicals have been around and have been widely used. Some of those are very safe to use, but some have some side effects. More recently, we’ve moved towards chewable medications, and there have always been collars around as well.

Types of flea and tick treatments for dogs include:

  • Oral tablets: These are a great choice for both the prevention and treatment of fleas and ticks, and they are safe for both your dog and your family. Oral tablets that treat fleas and ticks can only be obtained from your veterinarian.
  • Spot-on flea treatments: There are many different spot-on flea treatments with varying effectiveness and different spectrums of use. At your next veterinary appointment, we will help you choose the most effective spot-on flea and tick treatment for your dog.
  • Tick collars: Tick collars are occasionally recommended based on your dog's lifestyle.

Why You Should Avoid Over-The-Counter Flea Treatments For Dogs

There are many different flea and tick prevention products on the market. The amount of over-the-counter remedies has grown rapidly in the past 20 years. The influx of unapproved flea treatments for dogs in the early 2000s, and specifically spot-on treatments, led the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a warning in 2010 about possible toxic reactions to flea medicine for dogs. This resulted from a rash of dog fatalities attributed to the inappropriate use of some products.

As with any medication, there is some risk of adverse reaction to flea and tick treatments. These risks are extremely small. However, should you notice any symptoms or behavior changes, please call us. Our veterinarians would be happy to share with you their recommendations for the best flea and tick treatments for your dog at your next appointment.

What will my vet recommend for flea and tick treatment?

Your vet's going to recommend what your individual pet needs based on their medical history, your environment, and other things that maybe need to be considered. Some dogs don't eat some of these preventives very well, so perhaps you have to use a topical. Some don't react well to the topical, so maybe you have to use a chew, and some only wear the collars because they don't tolerate either. So there's no one size fits all; you have to see what the dog will tolerate and any medical conditions that might contraindicate using one or the other.

How can I identify fleas and ticks on my dog?

In the case of ticks, you're going to maybe feel those as you're petting your pet. Sometimes they can be big and swollen from having been attached for a long time. Very tiny ones are going to be hard to see unless you maybe roll your dog over on its back. So you could see perhaps some areas that don't have hair present. Fleas are a different story, as you'll often see fleas crawling around, and you also will see what's called flea dirt, which is tiny black specks on the skin. Usually, the most common areas you'd find those would be near the tail, where it attaches to the back and on the inside part of the back legs.

What should I do if I find fleas or ticks on my dog?

Well, if you find them, the best thing to do is get in contact with your vet clinic and see what they recommend in terms of good prevention and what's going to provide the quickest kill to get rid of the fleas or the ticks. Also, you want to make sure that you clean up your environment because not only are fleas very irritating to have now, but they can also lay dormant in the environment and certain temperatures for a long time and reemerge later. So anytime you have a true flea infestation, you’re looking at at least three months of treatment consecutively to get rid of the whole life cycle and stamp out the entire problem. Ideally, you want to stay on some type of flea and tick medication year-round because we never really see fleas go away, not here in Tennessee, but certain ticks are more prominent during specific times of the year.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 224-7776, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.