HEALTH & CARE

Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs: An Itch-free Fur Baby

Dog itching from fleas and ticks
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Many pet parents are hesitant when it comes to use chemical-based flea and tick prevention for dogs because such treatments come with numerous risks, including allergic reactions or even poisoning, especially for both the dog and the younger members of the family. Still, fleas and ticks can come from places that you may mistakenly believe as spotless and can inflict not only wounds and itching, but also illnesses that can be dangerous to you, your family, and your fur baby.

There is no known dog breed that has an immunity or advantage over ticks and fleas and all dogs are affected regardless of whether they have limited tufts of hair, a short coat, or a flowing coat. Every dog is at risk.

Is Keeping My Dog Clean Not Enough?

Maintaining a clean and fresh fur baby is always a good thing. However, when you want to maintain a dog that is flea and tick-free, cleanliness is just one of the many interventions that you have to do. Even if you can make sure that your dog is free from external parasites, the surroundings where your dog roams around is often beyond your control. Places like the local neighborhood, the park, or the roadsides can be infested with fleas and ticks coming from other dogs that went to these locations.

Care for your dog

This is the main reason why some pet parents are surprised when a previously healthy and active dog becomes sick. Despite exerting their best efforts to keep them healthy and clean, they come to realize that a flea or a tick bite made their dogs sick. There are more than two thousand kinds of fleas, but you only need one to make your dog’s life and yours miserable.

Chemical-based Flea and Tick Repellents

Chemical-based flea and tick repellents are prepared in such a way that they exterminate the parasites effectively. However, this effectiveness usually comes with a price which often includes hazardous ingredients that are harmful to both humans and dogs.

Flea and tick repellants

The worst part is that such repellents can often lead to life-threatening effects when ingested, especially by younger members of the family of dogs themselves. This is why chemical flea and tick repellants are on the end of the spectrum when it comes to the recommendation of dog experts and veterinarians.

The Hazards of Fleas and Ticks

These parasites are the most common parasites for domesticated animals, particularly dogs and cats. They are small and if you will not pay attention or look closely you won’t see them in time. They can be found at the base of the coat strands or at the corners of the ears or paws.

Dogs generally get ticks and fleas outdoors, although indoor environment is not necessarily exempted. By walking through grassy areas or woodlands, ticks go into this activity called questing, where they go on the grass or shrubs and stay there until a suitable host, like a walking dog, arrives.

When the dog walks by and its body rubs against the grass or shrub, the ticks hop on and the infestation begins. Ticks are quite resilient parasites, because they can wait as long as a year or more without feeding. That duration is more than enough to find a suitable host to feed on.

When fleas are feeding, these parasites inject their saliva into the dog’s skin. The compounds and proteins found in their saliva contain irritants and allergens which trigger a certain reaction such as rashes or itching. Allergic dermatitis is the most common skin problem in dogs, and it is often aggravated by scratching and biting the injection site.

Despite the small size, a dog does not need a lot of parasites for allergic dermatitis to become a problem because they bite often and they also proliferate quite fast.

Hazards of Fleas and Ticks

The fleas and ticks infestation can be worse in some areas and can vary depending on the season and part of the year. The species of Ticks and fleas can be worse from one area to another and can vary seasonally and from year to year. There’s one particular flea species is most commonly found in North America which is called as Ctenocephalides felis. This type of flea is very prone to drying itself, which means you are more likely to find this in Florida than other states like Oklahoma, and the prevalence decreases in drier states like Colorado.

In the Plains or Westerns region, fleas are not much of a problem because the environment is too dry for the fleas to thrive. However, the Gulf Coast region is considered as the most infested areas because of the environment that is generally favorable for fleas. To sum it up, the flea problem decreases as you go inland and when the environment becomes drier.

On the other hand, ticks have behaviors and biological requirements. There are also particular places where tick problems occur more frequently compared to others. The extreme Northeast and the upper Midwest are experiencing serious existing problems when it comes to tick infestations – Lyme disease tick in particular.

However, being away from these places doesn’t save you from the trouble because the south-central United States also have a bad tick infestation issue. You can only find very few places in North America with little to no tick problems as of now, for the main reason that there are a lot of different types of ticks.

The Safe and Effective Way for Flea and Tick Prevention

However, there are numerous interventions that can be done to prevent flea and tick infestation that will not require intensive and aggressive chemical-based treatments. These are some of the safer options to maintain an itch-free pet parenting life.

Gentle but Thorough Bath Times

Fleas do not hold or grasp on the hair shafts, and with gentle but thorough bath times, they can fall off. This simple method of using a gentle soap or pet shampoo and lukewarm water relaxes the strands and makes it easier to wash off the fleas.

Beagle take a summer bath

A good soak in a tub of water will wash a lot of fleas from your dog. This can be followed by a thorough brushing session to remove more fleas and ticks off the coat. This routine will go a very long way as part of your intervention in removing existing fleas and preventing them from proliferating. Remember to use a gentle pet shampoo to avoid the occurrence of irritated skin areas, or worsening the already irritated patches of skin due to the infestation.

Lemony Fresh

You may notice that a large percentage of flea products and pet shampoos are incorporated with citrus extracts. That is because parasites such as fleas and ticks are known to be repelled by this specific ingredient.

You can utilize this natural and refreshing way to repel parasites by using a freshly squeezed lemon or orange and lightly rub this on your fur baby’s fur to repel these parasites. However, please be aware that the oil extracts from oranges, lemons, or any citrus in particular, are not safe for dogs.

The oil extracts from the rind or peel contains limonene which is a very effective insect repellant and is often used as a household cleaning agent. This can be irritating to the skin and can cause organ damage, specifically liver to dogs and cats.

Lemony fresh for repellent

When using citrus products other than the squeezed ones, make sure you take great precaution to avoid injuries and accidents. Keep all citrus-based products out of children and dog’s reach. If will be using just the fresh citrus juice as a mild flea and tick repellant, then you and your fur baby should be fine. The oil extracts can only be obtained by using special extracting equipment, which makes your DIY juicing process generally safe.

However, if you think you can use citrus oil-based products to amplify the repelling effect, always do it with caution. Make sure that you wash your hands and change clothing articles that might have been stained with citrus oil because your pets might lick you and ingest this harmful ingredient. The risk for toxicity is intermediate because oils come in minimal amounts. However, if there is a noticeable behavioral change after one or more application, discontinue use and have a consultation with your veterinarian.

Parasite vs. Anti-Parasite

If you have a nice lawn or a spacious yard, why not try the natural method of introducing predators for fleas. This is a safe and all-natural way to repel flea infestation. There are numerous natural options under this method.

One is the introduction of nematodes, which are tiny worms that feed on the larva of fleas and can be bought from pet shops or garden stores. This highly effective approach can deliver an improvement in the reduction of flea preparation because they start from the larva stage and you can notice the difference in as little as few days. This nematode is the good or beneficial type, and should not be confused with the harmful types of nematodes which include the heartworm.

Tick showing

Some alternatives include lady bugs. These insects can be obtained from gardening shops, and are effective flea killers because they eat on soft-bodied insects which include fleas and ticks. In fact, a mature lady bug can consume about fifty insects each day which makes them a very safe yet effective parasite killer.

Lastly, you can also utilize the power of fire ants if you already have an existing colony of fire ants in your lawn. Fire ants devour flea larva and if you have them in your lawn, you only need to control the fire ant population and not eliminate them completely because these hardworking but very vicious insects can be your first line of defense when it comes to flea and tick infestation.

A Clean and Happy Home

As we have discussed a while ago, cleanliness helps. However, if you are still getting some flea and tick infestation, you might want to reconsider your cleaning game plan. To control the flea population effectively, make sure that you clean around the house and not limit the routine to the common areas where your pets roam around.

Cleaning your home

Check the pet beds, under the furniture, or the laundry area, which are often missed out when doing routine indoor cleaning. This approach aids in the prevention of the further proliferation of parasite population.

In addition, always dump the vacuum bag or canister whenever you are done because fleas can thrive inside the container which enables the repeat of the cycle until the time you dispose the bag or canister. Lastly, make sure that all pet waste is disposed properly, and that includes bathwater and brushed off fur because these can harbor fleas and ticks that were previously removed.

Use of Essential Oils

Ticks and fleas carry a lot of dangerous bacteria and allergens with them that is why repelling them should always be a priority. Essential oils are often used by dog owners, and the most popular essential oil used is the rose geranium oil. The essential oil is applied on the collar. However, if you have other pets at home like cats, the application of essential oil is strongly discouraged because these pets spend a lot of time cleaning and grooming themselves, causing them to ingest the oil and have a bad reaction.

Fashion and Function

Fleas and ticks usually cling on tall grass blades and wait for the perfect opportunity to jump to their next host. If your usual routine is to have long walks in areas that have grass, it is recommended to cover your dog’s body with an old t-shirt or custom-made dog clothing. Not only it looks fashionable, it also serves its purpose to protect your fur baby from invading parasites.

Dog in the grass

You can use your worn out shirt or old socks to be cut and sewn as leg warmers. This method is not a surefire success, but it significantly increases the prevention of tick and flea infestation whenever you walk around areas where the parasites are most likely to be present.

Conclusion

Prevention is a lot better than cure, and when you have several methods at your disposal, you bring yourself and your pet in a bug-free life all year long.

This allows you to have a peace of mind, and more fun without the worry of getting the burden caused by tick and flea infestation. It is very important to understand the preventive process, because it will save you from all the trouble and treatment costs as well.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Matt Reeves

    Dog owners! Be very careful! A lot of flea tick products can be harmful if you use them wrong or use on the wrong species. Always check with your vet if you have a serious tick or flea problem!

  • Hector Woods

    Our pets cannot take care of themselves when it comes to fleas and ticks. Please, be sure that your dog is always protected. Nowadays, there is a plenty of products you can use (sprays, chew products, collars). Of course, you should ask your vet first, before you decide to use any product.

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