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Dog Fleas and Ticks

Fleas can be found on any animal – including wildlife and our pets. They are the most common external parasite in our pets and can cause skin problems, as well as transfer diseases. The adults live on the animal affected and use their blood for nutrition. Eggs laid in the hair coat fall off into the environment, and progress into the larva and pupae stages, and develop into more adult fleas.

Ticks are becoming an increasing concern in London, as we are seeing more of them present, even within the city limits. They are a skin parasite that feeds on the blood of their hosts and can transmit many serious diseases, including Lyme disease. This poses a health hazard to both our pets and us humans! Their life cycle includes four stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult.

How can you tell if your dog has fleas or ticks?

For fleas, often the first thing noticed is an increase in scratching. Hair loss, red skin, or chewing at the fur can also be seen. Flea dirt, which can look like small flakes of pepper, can often be seen around the base of the tail and the lower back. Live fleas can also be seen. Ticks can be more difficult to detect, as they can be as small as the size of a pinhead. Often the first thing identified is a lump on the skin where the tick is embedded (the tick body), which is a blue/purple, brown, black or grey colour (with legs!). The area around the tick attachment may be red and irritated.

How do you prevent fleas and ticks in a dog?

There are multiple veterinary approved flea and tick medications available that are either given by mouth or applied as a liquid on the skin at the base of the neck. Each treatment can last for 1 or 3 months, depending on the product.

For fleas, each product varies in whether it kills the adult, eggs, and larva, or a combination, to prevent flea infestation. Fleas can occur at any time of year, and often owners prefer year-round prevention.

For ticks, the goal of the medication is to kill off the tick before it has a chance to transfer diseases (before the first eight hours). Ticks can be present in the environment at 4°C or higher, so prevention is recommended from early spring to late fall, or year-round if a mild winter occurs. As a precaution for ticks, carefully check over your dog after they have been outside (look especially around the ears, under the arms, and around the mouth), for quick identification and removal of ticks present. There are no veterinary-approved flea or tick preventions or treatments available outside of veterinary clinics: any products sold outside of the veterinary hospital are either ineffective, do not pass safety regulations, or can be seriously harmful when used.

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