It's a Ruff Life: Pests, Beware!
What to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from fleas or ticks.
Let’s talk about fleas and ticks. 'Tis the season! I’ve been hearing too much chatter about outbreaks in Old Town to ignore this topic, so here’s the scoop on prevention, what to look for, and solutions if your dog has the unfortunate fate of a flea or tick attack.
We are in the throws of the flea and tick season. This year will be exceptionally bad due to the mild and rather wimpy winter and an exceptionally early start to the warm weather. If you haven’t already, it’s time to apply those preventative medications, especially if your dog likes long walks in the woods.
The two most common brands on the market are Frontline Plus and Advantix. Both are applied topically to a dog’s coat once a month and should be used from approximately May thru September, depending on the types of activities that your dog engages in. If you have been using the same product for several years, there is a school of thought that fleas can become immune, so you might try a new brand this season. Newer products such as Sentinel, Revolution and Trifexis also offer heartworm protection, so these can be economical choices if your dog takes both.
If your dog is incessantly itching, shows signs of hot spots, or traces of black flecks of “dirt” on its stomach or in its bed in the morning, these are all signs of fleas. This black substance is the byproduct (read: blood) that's been digested after feeding on the flea's host. Fleas need a blood meal within 1-2 weeks of emerging from the larval stage, which is why they attach to our pets when they get hungry. To be certain whether you’re dealing with ‘flea dirt’, wipe the area with a white paper towel and then add a drop of water to the towel. If the dirt changes from black to reddish/brown, you can almost guarantee that fleas are in your midst. If you spot any of these signs, there are several steps you can take.
First, wash all your pet’s bedding in hot water. Make sure to check the tags first; I’d hate to shrink your monogrammed Orvis king-sized dog bed!
Next, vacuum the house. Fleas enjoy hiding in shaggy rugs and carpets while waiting for your dog to walk by or lay down so they can jump on board. Next, bathe your dog. There are several flea shampoos available at the pet stores in town, such as Adams brand, or, Pert shampoo is my household product remedy of choice. Be sure to follow up the flea bath with a reapplication of preventatives. If none of this proves effective, you have the option of a flea bomb, but this should be used as a last resort because the active ingredients can be toxic and require vacating your house for up to eight hours.
Ticks are easier to spot because as they become engorged with the blood of their host, they increase in size. If you spot a tick, most people remove them with tweezers. It’s very important to get hold of the tick as close to the animal’s skin as possible, with the goal of removing the entire head and body. Do not twist the tick as you pull it out, but rather pull directly upwards. It’s best to put it in a jar once it’s removed to determine whether you successfully extracted the head. If you didn’t, apply warm compresses to the skin and hopefully your dog will expel the remains naturally. Do not irritate the site further by gouging it with tweezers again. Frontline will kill a tick within 48 hours of contact, so make sure to reapply.
Get a jump on it before they jump on your dog!