The weather is nice and your dog enjoys nothing more than spending time romping around outdoors. He's not the only one. Fleas and ticks are also active this time of year—and in very large numbers. So it's inevitable that some dogs will come into contact with those pesky little nippers.
Did you know that a single industrious flea can bite a dog hundreds of times in just one day? It's true. The resulting itching and scratching of flea bites can lead to skin irritations, open sores, and even fur loss. And a female flea can lay hundreds of eggs on your unsuspecting pooch, making him the unwitting host of many future flea generations.
Ticks can also be a nuisance—and worse. Tick bites are irritating and they may cause an allergic reaction as well transmit diseases such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. And you could get those same infections, too, if infected ticks migrate from your dog to you.
Taking action against fleas and ticks
From shampoos and spot-ons to sprays, wipes, collars, and dusts, there's no shortage of anti-flea and anti-tick products on the market. And with such a wide variety of forms/types and ingredients, the choice can be confusing. Especially when you consider that some products contain ingredients that may be harmful to pets and children. Before buying a product, consult with your veterinarian for a professional recommendation. Be sure to tell your vet if there are children in the household—and let your vet know how much time your dog spends outside in areas where he is likely to meet fleas and ticks.
Precautions to keep you and your dog safe
Follow directions exactly. If the product is for dogs, don't use it on cats or other pets. If the label says use weekly, don't use it daily. If the product is for the house or yard, don't apply it directly on your pet.
Protect yourself. After applying any product, wash your hands immediately with soap and water. Use protective gloves if possible.
Watch for side effects. If your pet shows symptoms of illness after treatment, call your veterinarian. Symptoms of poisoning may include poor appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive salivation.
Check your dog regularly. Comb your pet with a flea comb, vacuum often, and dispose of the bags immediately after use. Also, mow areas of the lawn where your dog spends time, wash pet bedding weekly, and bathe your pet with a pet shampoo recommended by your veterinarian. Remember, fleas spend 90% of their time in your dog's environment, not on your dog. If your dog spends time in wooded areas or in areas with tall grass, check for ticks.
Safety issues to keep in mind
It's important to remember that the active ingredients in anti-flea/tick products are insecticides. According to the Humane Society of the United States,* in 2009 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that, to help better protect pets, it will explore further restrictions on the use of the commonly used ingredients in these products. The EPA is the government regulatory agency that approves which anti-flea/tick products can be sold in this country. This is another good reason to consult with your veterinarian. He may have the latest information and can help you make a sound and safe decision.