Current Progressive Cattle digital edition

Defending dogs from fleas and ticks

Contributed by Aimee Robinson Published on 02 July 2021
dog driving cattle

Having dogs in rural life, whether they spend their days relaxing indoors or working alongside ranchers and cattle, is a treat for us and a dream come true for them.

It’s important to remember that no matter the dog’s lifestyle or environment, all dogs deserve protection against harmful fleas and ticks, and summertime is prime time for protecting against these harmful, everyday pests.

More than an annoyance

Fleas and ticks present dangerous health risks to both inside and outside dogs. Their bite is more than just uncomfortable. Fleas and ticks can transmit diseases impacting a pet’s well-being. Another interesting fact is: Fleas also are the most common cause of pet allergies and dog itch.

“Fleas can transmit harmful bacterial pathogens and tapeworms when ingested during a pet’s self-grooming. Fleas can cause anemia and intense itching in pets, and some dogs may also develop flea allergy dermatitis, which results from an allergic reaction to flea saliva,” says Arnold Nagely, DVM, co-founder of Valley Vet Supply. “Like fleas, ticks also transmit harmful bacterial pathogens. One of the most dangerous and common tick-borne infectious diseases in dogs includes ehrlichia infection, which can cause lameness, eye issues such as blindness, neurological problems, weight loss and swollen limbs. Among other diseases, ticks also transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.”

Dogs can demonstrate a number of tick- or flea-borne disease symptoms, including:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Joint pain
  • Weakness
  • Enlarged spleen or lymph nodes
  • Gum discoloration
  • Swelling and stiffness of joints

It could take as long as 21 days for a pet to show signs of disease. In the case of Lyme disease, it can take as many as five months before signs become recognizable. Watch dogs closely for changes in behavior or appetite if there are concerns they have been bitten by a tick.

Prevention methods

Controlling the flea and tick population requires a multipronged approach by protecting the pet as well as treating the surrounding environment.

“Our dogs deserve our attention to stay ahead of ticks and fleas, rather than let them fend for themselves against the pests and the harmful diseases they can carry,” says Nagely. “There are a number of preventive methods available today to mitigate risk. In addition to using flea and tick preventives, be sure to check over your dog’s ears and flanks daily to make sure they are not being infected by these harmful pests and you’re not aware of it.”

There are several types of flea and tick control products. Learn about each below to determine the best method of protection.

  • Oral medications: Several trusted oral prescription and over-the-counter medications are available to help protect pets from fleas, ticks and other parasites.

  • Topical medications: These are easily applied between the pet’s shoulder blades, at the base of the neck and absorbed into the skin over time. There are prescription and non-prescription topical products available to offer pets protection.

  • Powders and sprays: Powders and spray treatments can conveniently provide quick-acting control against fleas, ticks, lice and more. While effective and relatively inexpensive options, these products may need to be reapplied more frequently because they can wear off faster on the skin when compared with topical medications.

  • Collars: Lasting up to several months (as many as eight months), flea and tick collars can offer pets reprieve by repelling annoying, disease-carrying fleas and ticks from an animal. Technological advances have produced flea and tick collars that are tremendously more effective than they were years ago. This is an ideal addition for outside pets and ranch dogs.

  • Shampoos: Flea and tick shampoos can help eliminate ticks, fleas, flea eggs and more that may be housed on a pet. Shampoos are an excellent solution to offer immediate relief to flea- or tick-infested pets, but offer no residual protection.

  • Dips: Dips consist of a concentrated liquid that can be diluted with water and sponged, or poured over, a flea- or tick-infested pet. Dips will kill and repel a number of pests. Most dip products are not washed off, unlike shampoos.

For effective and safe use, make sure to read flea and tick product labels.

In addition to ensuring your pet is protected, consider treating the home, farm trucks and environment to diminish the overall flea and tick population. Look to premise treatments, flea and tick spray, carpet powder and foggers. Use a yard spray to treat the lawn, doghouse and any areas where a pet rests. Give particular attention to warm, moist areas like those under decks, porches or trees. For those whose dog is always with them on the road, a flea and tick spray can be used to treat vehicles and surfaces as well.

Know the season for mosquitoes

In addition to fleas and ticks, beware of mosquitoes, which carry and transmit heartworms. According to the American Heartworm Society, there are 22 different mosquito species in the U.S. that carry heartworm and they are active at different times of the day and year, meaning they’re a risk to dogs year-round, especially to farm and ranch dogs spending more time outdoors, having greater exposure risk.

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease affecting a number of mammals, including cats, dogs and, on rare occasions, even humans. Their lasting impact causes severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.

Nagely explains how heartworms are transmitted, saying, “When adult female heartworms reside in an infected animal, they produce microscopic offspring known as microfilaria that circulate in the infected animal’s bloodstream.

“As a mosquito feeds on a heartworm-positive animal, it picks up these microfilaria and deposits the larvae onto the surface of the next animal it feeds on, allowing the larvae entrance into the host through the mosquito’s bite wound. There are a number of prescription heartworm pills, chewables and topicals that can be given at home to dogs and cats, which are also at risk.”

Ensure pets receive a yearly heartworm test from their veterinarian, taken by a small blood sample during their regular exam, and request a prescription for heartworm medication at this time. Heartworm preventives offer nearly 100% protection against heartworms. Remember the rule of 12: Every 12 months, ensure pets are tested for heartworms, and remember to administer pets one heartworm preventive every month.

Use flea, tick and heartworm preventives year-round to offer dogs the ultimate protection.  end mark

Visit the Valley Vet Supply website to learn more.

PHOTO: Ranch dogs may seem immune to diseases given their rugged, hard-working traits. But be aware of silent threats such as fleas, ticks and mosquitoes in your environment. Photo by Lynn Jaynes.

Aimee Robinson
  • Aimee Robinson

  • Content Marketing Manager
  • Valley Vet Supply
  • Email Aimee Robinson