‘Tis the Season! – Pesky Pests Part Three: Fleas and Mosquitoes

Welcome back to our third and final installment of Pesky Pests! Today we will be discussing fleas and mosquitoes.

In our two previous discussions we focused on ticks, as they tend to be more prevalent in the spring and early summer. As summer progresses with rising temps, and the rain comes and goes, we find our focus switching over to fleas and mosquitoes. Let’s discuss how they each affect our dogs and ways we can protect our pets from them.

Fleas

How do I know if my dog has fleas?

You don’t have to have any special training to find fleas on your dog – you just need to know what to look for. When going through your dog’s fur, you will want to focus your attention at the skin level. You may find live adult fleas, but you may also find “flea dirt.” Flea dirt will look like pepper sprinkled on your dog’s skin and is actually the excrement from fleas. (To confirm it is flea dirt, take a sampling of it, put it on a wet, white paper towel and smash it. You will find the paper towel will turn red as the excrement consists of digested blood from your dog.)

Fleas can be found anywhere on the body, but there are common areas to look for fleas and/or flea dirt on your dog.

  • Base of the tail
  • Groin area
  • Back/under legs
  • Around the ears/collar

Similar to the Tick Key we discussed in our previous articles, there is a tool you can use to help you find and remove fleas from your dog’s fur called a Flea Comb. This is an extremely fine-toothed comb, that when run through fur can “catch” adult fleas helping you find and eliminate them from your dog.

Another sign you may see alerting you that your dog may have fleas is excessive itching and biting at his/her fur. The saliva from a flea bite can cause an allergic reaction, or what is known as “Flea Allergy Dermatitis,” and can cause quite a bit of discomfort for a dog.

What should I do if I find fleas on my dog?

Although they are still used today on occasion, we have stepped away from the “Flea Bombs” that caused you to close up your house and leave for a number of days. I am thankful for that, but this doesn’t mean you can sit back and wait for them to go away. A flea’s life cycle is anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on conditions so taking key steps throughout this timeframe will eradicate them from your environment sooner. Here are steps I recommend:

  1. Bath your dog with a flea shampoo. This will help remove live fleas and flea dirt from your dog’s fur as well as help alleviate them from some itchiness.
  2. Launder all beds and blankets your dog sleeps on (this may include your own bed comforter). Be sure to wash them in HOT water to kill any flea eggs.
  3. Vacuum your carpet/floor surfaces thoroughly and routinely. Make sure to replace the bag or empty the vacuum dirt canister to prevent further re-infestation.
  4. Apply/administer flea medication/preventatives to your dog. These come in many forms including edible chews, topical applications, wearable products, and more.
  5. Call an exterminator for further assistance if you have an excessive infestation.

How can I prevent my dog from getting fleas?

Many of the products that are used for tick prevention also protect against fleas, so you get double the protection from one product. We discussed these in our last article but to refresh your memory, here is the list again:

  • Nexgard – edible chew
  • Frontline / Frontline Plus – topical
  • Seresto – wearable collar
  • Bravecto – edible chew, topical
  • Simparica / Simparica Trio – edible chew
  • Credelio – tablet
  • Revolution – topical 

If you are like many of us here at That’s My Dog!, we try to use as many natural, holistic products for our dogs as possible. When it comes to fleas, Diatomaceous Earth (human food grade) is a great alternative to chemical products and can be used in your yard, house, and even on your dog to help prevent fleas.

Mosquitoes

Why the concern for my dog?

No matter where you live in the United States, you are likely familiar with mosquitoes. Here at That’s My Dog! we are no stranger to them since we are located along the Mississippi River (aka – mosquito heaven).

Besides the annoying buzz you hear in your ear or the small welt on your arm they leave after a bite, what’s so concerning about mosquitoes and dogs? The answer – Heartworm Disease!

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm is a parasite, or adult worm, that lives within the heart of a dog. The main avenue of transmission is from the bite of an infected mosquito. When an infected mosquito bites a dog it passes larvae into the dog. This larvae feeds, matures into adult worms, and makes its way into the heart of a dog over a 6-month timeframe. Because heartworms live in the heart, the heart muscle begins to deteriorate over time causing coughing, decreased stamina with exercise, overall fatigue, decreased appetite, and weight loss. If not detected early enough and treated, it is sadly a fatal disease. To learn more about Heartworm Disease, please visit the American Heartworm Society website.

How do I know if my dog has heartworm disease?

Because the symptoms mentioned above are associated with many other diseases, it is difficult to discern from your dog’s outward presentation if he/she has heartworm disease specifically. Therefore, testing your dog annually is highly recommended. This is especially important in areas like the southern United States where Heartworm disease is much more common due to mosquitoes being present year round. The test is usually very simple. Your vet takes a small blood sample from your dog and (for those who run tests in-house) results are received within minutes.

Similar to fleas, prevention is the way to go, as the treatment for heartworm disease can be costly and difficult for many dogs. This includes medications, injections, and restricted activity throughout the process which can take many weeks. 

How can I protect my dog from heartworm disease?

Different from those used to prevent ticks and fleas, heartworm prevention products on the market today come in easy-to-give chewable forms for dogs. These include:

  • Heartgard Plus
  • Interceptor Plus
  • Simparica Trio
  • Trifexis

Because prevention is associated with mosquito exposure, dogs residing in northern states, like us here in Iowa, really only need to give it 6-8 months out of the year (April-November). Whereas those living in the southern states, it is best to give it year-round.

I want to thank you for reading our Pesky Pests series and hope you took a few key points away to keep your dogs safe and healthy. You may have heard the phrase: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Whether it comes to ticks, fleas, or mosquitoes this couldn’t be more true. Prevention is the key; whether it is through a product purchased from your veterinarian, or a holistic/natural approach, your dog will thank you through years of happy adventures. So get out there and have some fun together!

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