Alright ya’ll, let’s talk about the joys of outside and the bugs that come with it. If you’re anything like me and my doggo Ella, you love playing outside, but unfortunately it comes with some not-so-dog-friendly (or human friendly) blood sucking creatures.
What are fleas? And, most importantly, WHY ARE THERE SO MANY?! I have to admit to you, I read and loved the blood suckers in Twilight (Team Edward <3) but fleas are much more common and not nearly as appealing. The CDC says that “Fleas are small insects that survive by feeding on animal or human blood. Their bites can cause discomfort, itchiness, and irritation. Sometimes, fleas can infect people or pets with the germs that cause flea-borne typhus, plague, or cat scratch disease.” Um, gross and so not good for you or your pet! Not to mention they can lay between 40 to 50 eggs a day which can lead to a flea infestation in just a few days. Basically, if you see one, there are 100 more you aren’t seeing.
Fleas can jump, making it easy to travel from your pets to you or your furnishings. There is some GOOD NEWS though! The best way to prevent fleas is to keep your home dry and mess-free. Seems easy enough, right?
Warning Signs of Fleas
Fleas leave droppings which are dark specks in the fur along with white specks which are flea eggs. These can be hidden in fur or in any dark area of a home or yard. If your pet is excessively licking, scratching or has hot spots and scabs on the skin, it could be a sign that fleas are present. If your dog is having trouble with fleas, it’s good to also check for warning signs of Anemia. Since fleas can ‘suck’ up to 15x their own weight in blood,if a dog has a large amount of fleas their blood count can drop dangerously low. Some signs of anemia include pale gums and lack of energy. Be sure to groom your pet regularly to help prevent fleas from turning into a health concern for your pet.
While on the topic of nasty little suckers, let’s talk ticks. Ticks are larger in size than fleas and can be much more harmful because they can carry diseases. They’re typically found around the ears, neck, and paws of a pet, or any other dark, warm area. It is very important that if you see a tick on your pet (or you) to remove it immediately.
The danger of deer ticks is Lyme disease which causes fever, joint pain and even kidney disease. This is very near and dear to my heart because my Ella Dog suffers from Lyme disease – she contracted it from a tick at her previous home. After we rescued her we just thought she was really lazy for a two-year-old black lab, but as the days turned to weeks with low energy we knew something was wrong. The vet confirmed it and prescribed her medicine. She now has much more energy and is thriving. I cannot stress enough, watch out for ticks on your pets & be vigilant! There are some companies that can come to your home and spray your yard for ticks to help ensure that ticks are FAR away from your pet.
Dog ticks are also some to look out for because they can carry Rocky Mountain fever. These are much larger ticks and will grow to the size of a grape when full. Dog ticks are easily recognized by the large silver spot behind the head. Rocky Mountain fever can be fatal to dogs if an infected tick is attached for anywhere from 5-20 hours and it can cause serious issues for humans. Thankfully, if your pet has a tick-borne disease, it cannot transfer directly to you, but make sure you do not touch the tick’s blood.
How to Safely Remove Ticks
Protect yourself–wear gloves over your hands. Grab some tweezers and grab the tick from the side on its head, as close to the skin as possible, then pull straight up. It’s important that you do not twist or squeeze it. Dispose of the tick by flushing it, putting it in a sealed baggie and placing it in the trash, or wrapping the tick tightly with tape. Once disposed, wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Flea & Tick Prevention
Let’s talk prevention. There are many ways to prevent or lessen the chance of your pet getting fleas and ticks. From shampoos to medication to collars, there are a lot of options. First, always talk to your vet about the best option for you and your pet. Next, do some research and read the reviews. In my opinion, flea shampoo is not great, it can be very harsh on your pets skin and costs you $$$. Collars are a great choice for adult dogs, just be careful using them on puppies and kittens or around children that may touch the collar.
Getting Rid of Fleas & Ticks
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of living with fleas or ticks, there are measures you can take to rid them from your home. Keep your home and yard clean and free of debris. Be sure to vacuum regularly, wash bedding and keep outdoor leaves raked, and trash covered. According to pets.webmd.com, “any warm, soapy water will kill fleas, so dish washing soap or any dog shampoo will kill fleas on your pet. If fleas are in the area, though, they’ll jump back on. Be careful if you do buy a medicated shampoo. Some products for dogs can kill cats.”
Additionally, medication can be used that kills fleas within 30 minutes, but we strongly recommend talking to your vet before giving your dog any medication for treatment of fleas. Another option is foggers or bug bombs, Please remember that these are only recommended for severe infestations and you must leave your home while it works, as they use stronger pesticides.
I hope I didn’t scare y’all too much! If I’m being honest, my skin is itchy just thinking about the little [blood] suckers. The most important thing is to be knowledgeable, vigilant, and proactive to protect your pet, yourself, and your family. Stay safe out there, watch out for
vampires blood suckers, and have the best summer outdoors with your pets!