Flea & Tick 101

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Fleas & Ticks 101

Fleas and ticks can be a problem throughout most of the United States.  For warmer areas of the country, fleas and ticks can pose more of a year-round problem for dogs and cats.  For areas with cold winters, dogs and cats may have a few months of respite each year.

Flea and tick populations thrive in warm, humid environments, causing serious health concerns for you and your pets. An unseasonably warm winter can create an explosion of fleas and ticks in your backyard and surrounding area. (See our seasonal charts to see how long the flea and tick season typically is where you live.)

The most common flea species affecting cats and dogs in the U.S. is Ctenocephalides felis, or the cat flea. Fleas can transmit tapeworms and cause allergy dermatitis, the most common skin disease affecting dogs and cats. If not treated, your pet may even develop anemia, so it is important to protect your pet.

Because of warmer winters, urban area expansion, and other environmental factors, ticks that were once more commonly found in the southern part of the country have begun to migrate north into areas where they may not have been a problem before.  Using tick prevention medications, vaccinations, and having your pets screened for various tick-borne diseases is essential. Your veterinarian can provide the best advice as to which diseases are more prevalent in your area.

Why should I treat my dog for fleas and ticks?

Fleas can transmit tapeworms and allergy dermatitis, an allergic skin disease common in dogs and cats. Some animals are allergic to flea saliva which can cause your pet to constantly scratch and even cause self-mutilation. Left unprotected, your pet can develop anemia from fleas so it is important to treat your dog monthly with VetGuard Plus. (Do not use VetGuard Plus on cats or animals other than dogs).

Ticks can be found anywhere in the United States and are known to spread Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia and canine tick paralysis. Ticks can be found year round, but are most active in the spring through fall. They thrive in warm, humid areas and are most prevalent in the spring when temperatures rise. Wet and mild winters tend to cause higher infestations.

Checking your dog for fleas:

  1. Using a fine-toothed metal flea comb, run the comb along your pet’s back or stomach, making sure to come in contact with your pet’s skin.
  2. Pull out any fleas and drown them immediately in a bowl of soapy water.
  3. Brush or rub your pet’s coat while he is standing on a white sheet or towel. Watch the sheet or towel for any small, black specks that might be fleas or “flea dirt” (actually flea feces). Flea dirt is generally black and comma-shaped. When moistened and rubbed lightly, flea dirt will leave a telltale brownish-red stain.
  4. If you have not found any trace of fleas, but your pet continues to scratch, you might want to have your veterinarian check your pet.

Checking your dog for ticks:

Ticks like to attach close to the animal’s head, neck or stomach. They can be as small as a pinhead and very hard to see.

  1. Begin at the head of your dog. Check the whisker area and around the snout. Look in and around the ears.
  2. Also examine the stomach, back and paws, including the tail and between the toes.
  3. Gently comb the hair, but be careful if you encounter a snag as it may be a tick. Do not pull the tick out with the comb as it can leave pieces behind.
  4. Apply VetGuard Plus monthly to kill and repel ticks.

What to do if your dog has fleas and/or ticks:

  1. Treat your dog regularly with VetGuard Plus to kill existing fleas and ticks for up to 4 weeks. VetGuard Plus will also prevent flea eggs from developing into adults for up to 4 months.
  2. Wash your pet’s bedding in hot water or replace it. You may want to treat your home by vacuuming carpets and upholstery (throw away bag or clean cup with soap and water), but with regular use of VetGuard Plus, you should not have flea infestations in your home.
  3. Treat your yard by cutting down tall brush and grass near the house or dog run to reduce exposure to fleas and ticks.