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How to Protect Your Dog Against Fleas and Ticks




Fleas and ticks are types of parasites that survive by sucking blood from other animals. As they feed, they can pick up different diseases from blood which they can then transmit from one animal to another and pass on to their offspring. A single tick or flea bite is not guaranteed to make your dog unwell because not all of these insects will be infected. However, it’s important to know how to protect your dog against fleas and ticks because their bites can be fairly irritating for dogs and the diseases that might be spread have the potential to be very dangerous.


From your local vet clinic in Fort Collins, here’s everything you need to know about fleas and ticks, especially how to protect your dog against them. 


How to Tell if Your Dog Has Fleas or Ticks


It can be difficult to tell whether a dog has fleas and ticks. Fleas are easier to detect, as a single flea bite can cause your dog to be irritated and scratch excessively. You may be able to see the tiny fleas themselves as well as unusual red bumps and pimples located on your dog’s belly, groin, under the legs, and at the base of their tail. Hair loss and dry skin from their constant scratching may be another sign that your dog has fleas. 


Ticks are slightly more difficult to detect, so it’s best to regularly groom your dog in order to uncover irregularities that give the tick away. When ticks cling onto your dog they will only be about the size of a pinhead, but as they start to feed, they can grow roughly to the size of a small pea - because of this, they are usually hard to find until they’ve already been there for a while. While you’re petting or grooming your dog you may notice a bump that feels hard, and you may even mistake it for a skin lump or tag. But when you push back the hair, there will be a noticeable swollen, bluish-black ball on the dog’s skin; if you look closely enough, you’ll also see that it has eight legs behind the head. Ticks are generally round and shiny with a tiny head and a large, slightly flattened body; they can come in different colors of brown, pink, purple, or bluish-gray. 


Where Dogs Get Fleas and Ticks


Dogs get fleas and ticks in different ways, but they are both generally found in woodlands, forests, places with long grass, and areas with lots of wildlife and farm animals. Fleas are especially dynamic and can be acquired through contact with another flea-infested dog or by attaching to your clothing. What makes these creatures tricky is that they can jump up to 13 inches! Once they are around, they will nest on your dog, on carpets and furniture, and in dog beds. 


Ticks, on the other hand, cannot jump - they will crawl and attach to clothing or a dog’s fur if it comes in contact with the grass or surrounding environment that it is living in. They are active throughout the year, but will most likely be found between spring and fall. 




How to Protect Your Dog 


Fleas and ticks are hard to avoid completely, and they may even be inevitable if your dog spends a lot of time in outdoor areas where fleas and ticks are commonly found. So the question becomes, how can you protect your dogs? The answer is to do what you can in order to minimize risks. 


Avoid Hotspots


This may be an obvious one but it can sometimes be out of your control where your dog runs off to. During warmer months of the year, we recommend avoiding wooded areas and places with thick shrubbery and long grass. If possible, try to keep your dog on paths and open spaces instead of these places that will have ticks and fleas lurking to easily latch on your pet’s fur. 


Check out this regional map of tick distribution in Colorado: https://coloradoticks.org/rocky-mountain-wood-tick/ 


Use Parasite Treatment and Repellents 

Perhaps the most effective way to protect your dog is to use an effective flea and tick treatment. Be sure to look for products that have been thoroughly and safely tested, kill both fleas and ticks, target all types of fleas and ticks (especially those in Colorado), and act quickly. Be sure to give or apply parasite treatment regularly!


Similarly, it may be worth investing in a flea and tick-repellent collar. These special devices can help prevent parasites from climbing onto your dog in the first place. 


If you’re ever unsure or need extra advice about which products to use, don’t hesitate to consult your local vet. And last but not least, be sure to wear protective clothing yourself! Fleas and ticks can go after humans as well, so wearing long pants, long socks, and footwear built for the outdoors will help lower the risk of fleas and ticks. 


Check Your Dog Frequently 


Finally, you should aim to check your dog for fleas and ticks regularly. Colorado wood ticks will normally take 12 to 24 hours before they begin to feed, so checking for them after walks can be an effective way to mitigate the risks that they pose. The best way to find ticks is with your hands, not your eyes. Carefully comb through your dog’s fur with your fingers, seeking out bumps on their skin. Pay special attention to your dog’s belly, ears, face, feet, and elbows. 


When to Contact Your Vet

 

Fleas are easily treated with medication, but ticks are important to remove as soon as possible. You may be able to remove the tick yourself, but you should use a special tick-twisting tool and gentle precision in order to remove it properly. After removal, the wound must be thoroughly cleaned. Accidentally leaving the head or mouthpart of a tick behind when removing it can cause your dog discomfort and possible infection. Furthermore, unless the tick is removed correctly, the chance for disease transmission is increased. Do not try to remove a tick using rubbing alcohol, oil, or butter, nor by pulling, squeezing, freezing, or burning the tick.  


If you're worried about removing the tick yourself, ask your local vet in Fort Collins for help. At Coyote Ridge Veterinary Clinic, we have experience working with all types of animals, giving them the treatment they need to keep them healthy in Colorado. If you’re interested in learning more about how to join our pack, contact our friendly team right away! 


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