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Key Points
  • Up-front treatments and costs help avoid serious health problems and higher costs later.
  • There are no vaccines for most tick-borne illnesses, so tick preventatives are the best hope.
  • Your dog can infect you, your home, and your other pets.

Summer is a time when the lure of the great outdoors calls to us and our family pets. Unfortunately, it also rings in the full-blown season of fleas and ticks.

Whatever we do to keep our dogs healthy and protect them, it is impossible to keep them from meeting up with ticks and fleas when they go outside. And unfortunately, these parasites can have a serious effect on your dog’s health. There are big benefits to being consistent when protecting our dogs against these pesky parasites.

Plethora of Products

First of all, there are flea and tick preventatives on the market today that are safer and more effective than what was available 10 years ago. Our choices have grown exponentially over the years, however you must always consider the safety of your dog when using a flea and tick preventative. It is best to work with your veterinarian to decide on the right regimen that will fit your pet’s age, health, and breed, as well as the environment you live or vacation in. Your vet will also consider whether you have more than one pet, have dogs that swim, or have young children in your household. Choices for flea and tick preventatives now include oral medications, topical drops, and special flea and tick collars for your dog.

Tick Bites Cause Nasty Illnesses

Ticks can cause infection, abscesses, paralysis, and even death. In addition, ticks are the host of several debilitating diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that vaccines are not available for most of the tick-borne diseases that dogs can get. These diseases can be very difficult to recognize and are easily misdiagnosed due to varied and vague symptoms. Treatments for tick-borne illnesses are lengthy and can be very costly. Dr. Klein suggests that during tick season, in addition to using a preventative treatment, it is critical to do a daily tick check on your dog. A tick bite will take about 12 hours to transmit anaplasma and 24-to-36 hours to transmit Lyme disease. So it’s very important to locate and carefully remove ticks from your dog as quickly as possible.

Japanese Spitz puppy sitting in tall green grasses outdoors in the sunshine.

Flea Circus

Itching and scratching, redness, flaky skin, scabs, hot spots, hair loss. If your pet has an allergy to fleas, you may observe these uncomfortable symptoms and more if he has fleas. The bite of one flea can send your dog into a whirlwind of scratching, biting. and digging at his skin. Also, fleas are the most common cause of tapeworms. The first thing your pet will most likely do when bitten by a flea is chew at the spot where the bite is. Often this results in your dog swallowing the flea. Fleas carry the larvae of the tapeworm, and these larvae will mature into adult tapeworms inside your pet’s intestines. Fleas have also been known to cause anemia from blood loss in very infested dogs.

Homes and Humans and Other Pets

Humans are also vulnerable to many of the complications and diseases that ticks and fleas cause, and they are equally hard to get rid of. One more reason to practice flea and tick prevention with your pets is to help keep your home and family safe from an infestation. “Fleas and ticks also serve as vectors that spread a large number of diseases between animals,” says Dr. Klein. “So if you have more than one pet, your other pets will be at risk.”

All of the above reasons should convince you that prevention is the way to go when it comes to fleas and ticks. You certainly can’t control all of the parasites in your environment, but you can take steps to protect your dog from suffering the consequences. Talk to your veterinarian and decide which prevention products will work best for your dog, your environment, and your budget.

The American Veterinary Medial Association (AVMA) cautions pet owners that parasite protection is not “one-size-fits-all.” Some products should not be used on very young or very old pets. Some breeds are sensitive to certain ingredients that can make them extremely ill. The AVMA suggest that you ask your veterinarian the following questions when you consult about the best and safest option for your dog:

  • What parasites does this product protect against?
  • How often should I use/apply the product?
  • How long will it take for the product to work?
  • If I see a flea or tick, does that mean it’s not working?
  • What should I do if my pet has a reaction to the product?
  • Is there a need for more than one product?
  • How would I apply or use multiple products on my pet?
Related article: How to Remove a Tick from Your Dog
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