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Dog Fleas and Ticks

While we are lucky that fleas are not common in the Calgary area, it is not a guarantee that your pet will avoid an infestation. Travel to other areas where fleas are more common may require treatment to prevent infestation. Fleas are not only an irritating cause of itchiness, but can spread tapeworms. Fleas can be contracted from close contact with infected pets and wildlife, but also infested environments.

Ticks are commonly found in tall shaded grasses, bushes, and wooded areas. If your pet is spending time exploring these areas, they could come into contact with ticks. Ticks are active whenever the temperature is above 4°C. Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed when they first bite. Relying on being able to spot them and remove them in a timely fashion is not an effective way to prevent infection with the bacterial diseases they can carry (i.e. Lyme disease).

If you have concerns about your pet being at risk for fleas and ticks, please address them with your veterinarian. They can recommend a prevention strategy and schedule tailored to your dog’s lifestyle.

How can I tell if my dog has fleas or ticks?

Fleas are small, brownish-red, and have a flat and narrow body shape. They are very quick and can jump quite high and far. If infested, you can usually see them scurrying around in the fur, and your pet may have red bumps or what looks like dirt on the skin. Flea infestation will cause your pet to be quite itchy, and all dogs in the house would be affected. If your home is infested, or you’re in close contact with an infested dog, you may also experience flea bites.

Ticks can be as small as the end of a pin; however, after a blood meal, they can engorge to about the size of a kernel of corn. After they have already engorged is typically when people will notice a tick on their pet. Tick bites do not usually make a pet itchy.

How can I prevent fleas and ticks on my dog?

Effective prevention of flea infestations and transfer of tick-borne disease entails using an effective tick preventive prescribed by your veterinarian. In the past, pesticides were the most effective option available, even though they came with significant risks (ex. toxic reactions, chemical burns, etc.). Much safer products are now available through your veterinarian.

What are the treatment options for dogs who have ticks?

If you find a tick on your pet, you can remove it yourself but you must ensure that you also remove the head. For more information on tick prevention and removal, please visit: https://www.albertaanimalhealthsource.ca/content/tick-prevention-removal.

If you are unsure or uncomfortable with the tick removal, we can remove it for you. There is a provincial program that will test the type of tick found on your pet and determine if it is a carrier for Lyme disease. If you find a tick on your pet, bring it into the clinic, and we can send it to the provincial laboratory to be tested.

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