How Do I Know If My Dog Has Fleas?

Most dogs will be extremely uncomfortable if they have fleas, and they will scratch and itch excessively. If you look at their hair coat closely, you may notice a black sand-like matter scattered through their hair, which is flea dirt or, stated bluntly, flea poop. Although some pet owners manage to see the fleas themselves, they can be very hard to find in specific coats, as they are so tiny. Fleas typically populate around the tail and belly area of dogs, but as fleas are often difficult to visualize, a sure sign that your dog has fleas is if they carry flea dirt on their coat and exhibit general discomfort.

What Do Flea Eggs Look Like?

Flea eggs are white and extremely small, about the size of a pinhead. Although it is possible to see these eggs, it is very difficult, and you’d have to search for them attentively. Once a flea gets on your dog, they tend to stay there and lay their eggs in your dog’s fur. Flea eggs resemble the consistency of sand, so they will fall off your dog and typically wind up in the place your dog sleeps or spends most of their time, whether that is on your furniture, floor, or bed. The flea dirt left behind by the adult fleas serves as nutrients for the flea larvae, which then develop into adult fleas capable of laying their own eggs.

This replication cycle commonly occurs in carpets, beds, sofas, in between floorboards, or any other place where flea eggs and flea dirt come together. Once the larval stage is complete, there will be plenty more adult fleas eager to jump on your pet.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Ticks?

If a tick is in its nymph stage, it is very small and difficult to visualize. However, once they develop into adult ticks, they can become quite large, making them easier to see. Ticks go through many stages before becoming the adult ticks we are used to seeing, and they typically access your dog via wildlife in your backyard.

Adult ticks can be as large as a quarter of an inch or four centimeters. Nevertheless, they can still be difficult to find on dogs with thicker and darker hair coats. In such instances, pet owners can attempt to locate ticks by brushing and rubbing their dog’s hair back with their fingers to expose their skin. Ticks typically reside around the neck area and behind the ears, which are vascular zones on your dog’s body, ensuring the tick gets a full blood meal.

What Medications Are There For Fleas And Ticks?

Sentinel is an extremely effective flea medication given once a month to ensure your dog is thoroughly protected. Sentinel essentially prohibits the egg production process, which ensures your home won’t get infested with flea eggs which then turn into adult fleas eager to jump onto your dog. Although fleas will still produce eggs, those eggs will fall off of your dog, never to hatch and become adult fleas. Sentinel is the only product that focuses on keeping your home from becoming infested with fleas.

Another great product is Bravecto, which is an adulticide for both fleas and ticks. This adulticide medication kills both adult fleas and ticks. Therefore, it is especially effective in protecting your pets against tick-borne diseases, so if you have dogs or cats that are exposed to ticks in their environment, getting them on Bravecto is highly recommended. Bravecto is administered every three months and will start eliminating ticks within 12 hours after being taken.

Do Flea Collars Work?

Although flea collars can be effective in keeping fleas away, there are much better and less dangerous products. Such collars will expose both your pets and our family members to harmful substances, which isn’t necessary anymore, as there are so many beneficial alternatives available today.

Dog with flea collar

Are Flea Sprays Effective?

Some flea sprays may be effective, but they also consist of poisonous substances, so you are effectively exposing yourself and your dog to harmful chemicals when you use them. The latest flea and tick products on the market are proven to be safe for you and your pets, so using products like flea sprays doesn’t come recommended.

The preventive products your veterinarian can prescribe are, in truth, the only safe and effective products on the market. Moreover, every pet is unique, so your veterinarian can prescribe a product that is suitable for your individual dog and your family’s circumstances and lifestyle. Therefore, your dedicated veterinarian is the best person to consult when it comes to flea and tick prevention.

Are There Any Effective Over-The-Counter Or Natural Medications For Fleas And Ticks?

The prominent issue with over-the-counter flea and tick preventatives is that they are often used inappropriately, and they don’t remain effective for nearly as long as prescription products. Although some over-the-counter products used to be effective against fleas and ticks, these creatures have developed a resistance to them, rendering them ineffective. Some of these products can even be dangerous for your pets.

Pet owner applying flea medication

For instance, a pet owner may purchase a product specifically designed for dogs and use it on their cat because they didn't pay close enough attention to the instructions or the employee selling it to them is just not sufficiently educated to be giving advice on such products. This specific occurrence has led to many cats being poisoned by over-the-counter dog products. Therefore, veterinarians always advise against over-the-counter flea and tick preventatives as there are too many risks with which they are associated. These medications do not advance pet owners’ understanding of the issues in their environment and their solutions.

Does My Dog Need To Be On Flea Medication Year-Round?

In areas like California, fleas and ticks are a year-round problem. Therefore, veterinarians recommend your dog is on flea and tick medication for the whole year. This suggestion is not only intended to protect your pets but also your family members, as some intestinal parasites, like roundworms and hookworms, are zoonotic, meaning they can spread to humans.

Some flea and tick preventatives, such as Sentinel, are also effective in protecting your dog against heartworm disease. As Sentinel ensures fleas' eggs don’t hatch, it effectively keeps your home environment free of parasites, even if your dogs pick up countless fleas outside of your home. It is so often the case that dogs visit another person’s home where they are exposed to fleas. They then bring the fleas home and infest your house with thousands of flea eggs before you even notice there is a problem. However, if your dog is on Sentinel year-round, you will never have a flea infestation, and your family and your pets will remain protected.

Although many people believe flea and tick prevention is not necessary throughout every season of the year, it is important to remember that these insects are protected from the elements inside your home. Cornell University for Veterinary Medicine agrees that keeping your pet on year-round prevention ensures even those insects that evade the cold winter cannot harm your pet.

How Long Does It Take For Flea And Tick Medications To Start Working?

If a dog affected by fleas comes into our clinic, we can safely assume they have already dropped hundreds of flea eggs around your home. Therefore, we will get them on Sentinel immediately, but we will also give them Bravecto so we can cover all grounds. The Sentinel will prevent further infestation, while the Bravecto will kill any fleas presently residing on your pet within eight hours. When the flea eggs in your home hatch and jump on your dog, they will also die relatively rapidly.

Ticks take about 12 hours to die for the appropriate medication, but they tend to be repelled quite soon, so you may see some ticks crawling across the floor. Although nobody wants to see ticks crawling around the house, it is better than having them living on your pets.

How Do I Remove A Tick From My Dog?

The best course of action is using tweezers to grip the tick at its base and slowly pull them off in a twisting motion. As ticks embed themselves in your dog’s tissue, some parts of their mouths will inevitably stay within your pet when you pull them off. This will result in a small nodule on your dog’s skin at the biting site because of the inflammatory reaction your dog’s body will produce due to the foreign particles. However, this nodule is typically benign and shouldn’t cause any alarm. Your dog’s system will take care of resolving the nodule on its own. Ideally, ticks don’t get on your dog at all or are removed as soon as possible because they spread diseases to both pets and humans.

Some ticks can even infest your home, which is a horrendous occurrence. As ticks commonly reside on wildlife and in long grassy terrains, the best way to prevent an infestation is to keep any grass in your yard short. Some birds, lizards, and rabbits can even deposit different stages of ticks into your environment, so it is best to keep your outside areas neat and trimmed to prevent ticks from hiding in tall grasses. If you take your dog for a walk, try to keep them from sticking their heads into tall grasses beside the sidewalk, as ticks tend to reside on the tips of grasses with their feet out, ready to attach to animals or even you.

How Long Can A Tick Live On My Dog, And What Diseases Do They Spread?

Ticks typically stay on your pet for up to four days while they complete the process of molting or producing eggs. Although this may not seem long, four days give ticks plenty of time to spread nasty diseases. The prevalence of ticks is certainly something to keep in mind, as canine infections originating from ticks have increased from 41% to 167% in recent years, as evident by national antibody prevalence surveys.

The most common tick-borne disease we are all familiar with is Lyme disease, but there are various other diseases fleas and ticks spread to pets and also humans. Therefore, preventing fleas and ticks on your pet is also a way of preventing disease, and this can only be achieved by consulting your veterinarian, who is knowledgeable and trained on the matter.

Your veterinarian will tailor their recommendations based on your dog's individual circumstances, such as whether they spend time around other dogs, what kind of lifestyle they live, whether they often go hiking or walking on the street, and how many other pets live in your home. This information greatly facilitates your veterinarian’s ability to explain the importance of flea and tick prevention and how such products work, so every client can make the right choice in favor of their pets’ and family’s well-being.

What Happens If I Don't Treat My Dog For Fleas?

Firstly, having bugs crawling all over your body is extremely uncomfortable, so your dog will not thrive when they have a flea infestation. Moreover, fleas can transmit harmful diseases to both pets and your family members. Although many people assume a flea infestation is not dire because they themselves aren’t getting bit, this is often because fleas prefer dogs and cats over humans, so your house may still be infested even if you don’t experience any flea bites yourself.

If you do get bitten by fleas, it indicates a rather severe infestation, which is, needless to say, horrible and disgusting. Pets affected by fleas will start to feel unwell, lose their hair, and develop secondary skin infections. Fleas make for really miserable pets, and it is not necessary for any animal to have this experience, as there are so many effective products available to avoid it. To some extent, it is important to understand the biology of fleas in order to treat them appropriately, and your veterinarian is the most trustworthy source for education and information on the subject.

Does My Indoor Dog Need To Be On Flea And Tick Prevention?

No dog is really a strictly indoor dog. For whatever reason, they will still need to go outside for short periods of time, which is ample time for fleas and ticks to hop on their fur. Therefore, it is highly recommended to always give your dog Sentinel once a month, as there will always be a measure of exposure involved. If your dog truly is an indoor dog, it may not be necessary to put them on Bravecto in addition to Sentinel, but it depends on your unique circumstances. Your veterinarian will consider your lifestyle and potential exposures and determine the best course of action accordingly.

Do I Need To Treat My Home And Yard For Fleas And Ticks?

If your pets are on the appropriate preventative medication, it is not necessary to treat your home and yard for fleas and ticks. The best practice is just to keep your yard as manicured as possible by keeping the grass short and eliminating any bushes or debris. Cutting the grass will minimize the likelihood of ticks making a home in your yard while preventing the accumulation of underbrush will manage the flea population. If wildlife comes into your yard and releases hundreds of flea eggs, these eggs will typically hatch in shaded, moist areas, according to Merck Manual. If you keep the area trimmed, they may not have that opportunity. 

Although there are dozens of sprays and bombs out there designed to kill fleas and ticks, these products often cause more harm than good. They are further only able to kill adult fleas, not eggs. As adult fleas make up a mere 5% of the entire flea population as opposed to fleas in their larval and pupal stages, killing the adults won't solve your flea problem. The only way to kill fleas that are in the pupa stage is with fire, so unless you plan on setting fire to your yard or house, you won’t be able to kill them.

Thus, the best thing to do is wait for the fleas to hatch and reach your pets before killing them off with Bravecto or another reputable flea product. Once the fleas are in your home, we cover all bases by getting your pets on a preventative and an adulticide, which eliminates adult fleas. Using this multimodal approach is the best way to eliminate fleas of all life stages and prevent fleas from becoming resistant to alternative products. The poisonous products intended to kill fleas in your environment will only end up poisoning you and your pets, whereas veterinarian-prescribed products ensure the problem is confronted head-on.

How do I Remove Fleas, Eggs, And Larvae From My Dog's Bedding?

If you have a flea infestation in your home, vacuuming and washing frequently is essential. If you already make a habit of vacuuming often and your flea problem endures, you may need to throw out the vacuum bag or throw out the canister, as it will likely be filled with flea eggs.

What Can I Do If My Neighbor's Pets Have Fleas?

If your neighbor's pets have fleas, the best thing to do is provide them with your veterinarian’s contact information and advise them to make an appointment. It is further important to put your pets on flea and tick preventatives and an adulticide since they have already been exposed. Even pet owners living in an apartment can experience severe flea infestations because these little critters can come into your home on your pant leg and shoes. Evidently, indoor pets are not exempt from flea infestations, which can turn into a much bigger problem than first anticipated.

In Closing

Fleas and ticks are detrimental to the health of your dog, but thanks to incredible developments in veterinary medicine, you can ensure your beloved pet never has to suffer at the hands of external parasites. If you suspect your dog may have fleas or ticks, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible so you can collaborate with an expert on how to treat and prevent any issues.