Ticks and fleas are well-known pests among dogs and can transmit several diseases. That’s why vets recommend the parasite prevention they offer as early as possible in a dog’s life. However, some pet owners are still unaware of the risks posed by these tiny creatures.
Read more to discover which diseases ticks and fleas can transmit to dogs, how common these infections are, and what you can do to prevent them.
What Are Ticks and Fleas in Dogs?
Ticks and fleas are blood-sucking parasites that commonly affect dogs. Ticks attach themselves to their host’s skin and feed on their blood, while fleas live off their host’s blood without attaching themselves. Both of these parasites can transmit diseases to dogs.
Ticks and fleas come from other infected animals. Ticks can attach themselves to people or other animals that brush past them in tall grass or bushes. Fleas typically jump from an infested animal onto another one. Once they’re on their new host, they start feeding and reproducing.
Ticks and fleas can cause a lot of discomfort for dogs. Ticks can make dogs itch and scratch, resulting in skin irritation and infection. Fleas can also bite dogs, causing them to itch and scratch. In severe cases, an infestation of either pest can lead to anemia (low red blood cell count) in dogs.
A reputable and experienced vet clinic or hospital plays a significant role in your pet’s health. Make sure to visit their facility or website and check testimonials, services, and areas of specialization, including their internist experts, to ensure they are the best fit for you and your pet.
What Are the Diseases Ticks and Fleas Can Transmit?
Ticks and fleas can transfer a number of diseases to dogs. The most common are:
1. Lyme Disease
Lyme disease results from bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. It’s transmitted by black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks. This disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States.
Lyme disease symptoms can take two to five months to show up and can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and joint pain. It can result in kidney and heart problems and even death if left untreated.
Dogs that test positive for Lyme disease should be treated immediately. The treatment involves antibiotics for four weeks or longer. Your vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to help relieve your dog’s joint pains.
Bacteria from the genus Ehrlichia cause ehrlichiosis. It can be transmitted by several different types of ticks, including the brown dog tick, Lone star tick, and American dog tick. Ehrlichiosis is most common in the southeastern United States.
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Anemia and bleeding disorders
- If left untreated, ehrlichiosis can be fatal
Treatment for ehrlichiosis involves antibiotics given for at least four weeks. Dogs with severe symptoms like anemia may also need hospitalization and supportive care, such as IV fluids and blood transfusions.
3. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is caused by the intracellular parasite Rickettsia rickettsii. It’s transmitted by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and brown dog tick.
An unfed tick has to be attached to your dog for 10 hours before it can transmit RMSF. But it takes as little as 10 minutes for a fed tick to transfer RMSF to your dog after attachment.
Symptoms of RMSF include:
- Loss of appetite
- Rash (often starts on the abdomen and spreads to the legs and feet)
If left untreated, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be fatal. Treatment involves antibiotics given for at least two weeks. Dogs with severe symptoms may also need hospitalization and supportive care.
Fortunately, dogs respond well to antibiotic treatment with noticeable improvement of their condition after 24 to 48 hours.
This is a disease caused by the bacteria Anaplasma platys or A. phagocytophila. It can be transmitted by the brown dog tick, American dog tick, and Rocky Mountain wood tick.
Dogs infected with anaplasmosis may not show signs of the disease, but the most common symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding disorders
Symptoms may be more severe in young dogs or where there is another infection called babesia. Treatment of anaplasmosis involves antibiotics given for at least two weeks. You may also need to bring your dog to the hospital and stay for a few days if they are severely ill.
How to Prevent Ticks and Fleas on Dogs?
The best way to prevent ticks and fleas on dogs is to use a combination of monthly topical or oral parasite preventive medication prescribed by your veterinarian and environmental control.
- Regularly checking your pet for ticks and fleas, especially after spending time outdoors in areas where these parasites are common.
- Vacuuming carpets, furniture, and flooring can also help remove fleas from your home.
- Regularly washing your dog’s bedding in hot water will also help to kill any parasites or their eggs that may be present.
Flea and Tick Products for Dogs
There are various different types of flea and tick products available for dogs. These include:
- Oral medications
Some products protect dogs from fleas and ticks, while others may only protect against one another.
Moreover, many natural preventive measures can be taken to reduce the risk of ticks and fleas on dogs. These include using essential oils, such as lavender oil or eucalyptus oil, which have been shown to repel ticks and fleas. Cedar oil is also a popular natural tick and flea repellent for dogs.
These are only some diseases that ticks and fleas can transmit to dogs and even humans. It’s important to be aware of these parasites’ risks and take steps to prevent them from becoming infected. In other words, aside from a dentist appointment, you should also ensure your dog is up-to-date on all their vaccinations and preventatives.
If you reside in a region where ticks and fleas are common, be sure to check your dog regularly for these parasites. Most importantly, if you find a tick or flea on your dog, remove it properly and clean the area thoroughly.