Dog Flea & Tick - The Critical Role of Dog Flea & Tick Prevention


How does my dog get fleas and ticks?

Fleas and ticks are bugs, and they're nasty little bugs to say the very least. They will either climb or jump on your pet from the environment, whether they're in your house, outdoors, in the woods, in tall grasses, or things like that. They can pick them up from nature or just about anywhere.


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

Can fleas and ticks spread from my dog to my home and family?

In theory, yes. The way both of these bugs work is they use your pet as a food source, as a blood meal. If your dog picks up a tick outside and it gets on your pet and it feeds on your pet, if that dog happens to be inside when the tick decides to jump off of your pet, then yes, it is possible for these pests to get into your house and affect your family that way. The same kind of thing goes for fleas. Fleas will get on your pet. They'll take a blood meal on your dog. And then, after that, they'll jump back off into the environment to lay their eggs. If that's on your couch, then that's where it is.

Can my dog get fleas and ticks if they are primarily an indoor dog?

It is possible, especially if there are other pets in the home that go outside or other pets that are outside the home living in the area. It's a possibility that even though they're mostly indoors, they could still pick up those fleas and ticks.

What health problems can fleas and ticks cause my dog?

If the dog gets enough fleas, we can see anemia from just that much blood loss. They carry diseases themselves, so if you've heard of Lyme disease, that's a common tick-borne disease that we tend to test for on a yearly basis in our dogs.

How effective are flea and tick medications?

The ones that we have on the market today are super effective. We have a new drug class called the isoxazoline drug class. It's a bit of a mouthful, but it probably came on the market, I would say maybe within the last five to eight years. And it is a wonderful line. If you've heard of things like Bravecto, Simparica, Simparica Trio, Nexgard, things like that, those are all in that isoxazoline class, and they're very effective against fleas and ticks.

What is the difference between over-the-counter and prescription flea and tick medicine?

In my mind, the difference there is going to be how effective they are. A lot of those over-the-counter flea and tick medications worked wonderfully maybe 20, 30 years ago, but they're not as effective today. We're seeing resistance to some of those products from the fleas and the ticks, and they're not killing them or killing them fast enough to prevent disease transmission. And so, really, the best protection you can get your pet is by getting them a prescription-strength flea and tick product.

What are the different types of flea and tick preventatives?

There are several out there on the market. My personal favorite is going to be Simparica Trio, and that's because it does everything. It prevents fleas, ticks, heartworm, and intestinal parasites. It's full-spectrum prevention in one chew. But let's say you're not concerned about heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention. My following recommendation would be either Simparica or Bravecto, and those two products just do flea and tick prevention.

What will my veterinarian recommend for a flea and tick treatment?

If you have an active infestation of fleas or ticks, sometimes we'll give your pet a regular old bath here in the clinic, not using anything special. They make flea shampoos and stuff like that, but sometimes if we can just physically get them off of your pet, that helps a lot. And then, we recommend getting them on a preventative for at least three months, but preferably year-round, because here in Kentucky, we have those 70-degree days in December. And so, we don't see that hard kill where a lot of these things die off during the cooler months. So, year-round protection is critical. And then, if they've gotten into your environment, you need to treat and clean your environment—your home, couches, carpets, drapery, blankets—all of that good stuff is going to be necessary.

How can I identify fleas and ticks on my dog?

You can see them with your own two eyes. It's much easier to find an engorged tick, though nobody wants to find one of those, that one that has gotten on your pet and hasn't had a chance to feed yet. Often, the easiest thing to do is kind of take your hand and run it up against the direction of the hair growth on your pet, and you can see some of those organisms living on the skin.

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

The best thing to do is to get them into the clinic to get you some good flea and tick prevention. Or if we've never seen your pet, then we'll want to do an exam to establish that relationship for you guys, but getting them on prevention is going to be critical.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Flea & Tick - FAQs


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

What is the most common question you get when it comes to fleas and ticks?

The most common thing that owners ask me about flea and ticks is, "Hey Doc, I can just treat in the summer, right?" Because that's when they're present. And believe it or not, here in Kentucky, we don't get cold enough winters. We have 70-degree days in December. We had plenty of rain last winter. So, we generally don't get a cold enough, hard enough freeze to kill out the flea population. That’s why we recommend staying on a flea preventative year-round. And believe it or not, even with the cold, hard winter, ticks hibernate or go a little dormant, but they can also be active during the cold weather. They're just not as active. Ticks can be around 12 months out of the year. This past January, we had a cat from which we pulled off over 20 ticks.

What health problems can fleas and ticks cause in my animal?

Fleas can cause anemia, which is decreased red blood cell count. They feed on blood. That is their food source. So, if there's enough of them, they can deplete your dog or cat of some of the blood they need, which can be life-threatening at times, especially depending on the size of your animal. But one flea itself can lay up to 50 eggs a day. So, if you've got five fleas, you've got 250 eggs being laid in your house each day. And those eggs are living in your bed, on your pillow, in your couch, your curtains, and other places like that. So, it can get out of hand fast. But they can also cause what we call flea allergy dermatitis on your pet, which is where they get a severe allergic skin reaction to the flea by itself in the flea saliva. And many times, pets end up needing antibiotics—sometimes even things like steroids or something to help with the itching.

Are there any common tick-borne diseases in this area?

There are two major ones that we're seeing. Those include Lyme disease, which most people are familiar with. There is an astounding number of people that know somebody who's had Lyme disease, as well as Ehrlichia or Ehrlichiosis. And the third one that's starting to move into our region, we primarily saw it in the Northeastern United States, but it's working its way down, is called Anaplasmosis. And these are primarily bacterial diseases that are carried and transmitted by ticks. You can't get them from your dog unless the tick that bites your dog also happens to bite you. So, they're not contagious if your pet were to happen to contract them. But they can cause some serious complications if left untreated. So, we do have a tick-borne disease test. It's also combined with our heartworm test that seeks to diagnose those three prevalent diseases—Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasmosis.

They make a vaccine for Lyme disease. So, we always recommend being vaccinated for Lyme disease if you are an outdoorsy type and take your pets hiking or camping with you regularly. We also recommend the vaccine for pets living on a farm with many acreages with higher exposure to ticks.

The most common symptom with these diseases is polyarthritis, meaning that they tend to get inflammatory arthritis of multiple joints. The most common complaint we get from owners is their dog was kind of off, walking a little sore one day but then better a couple of days later. And then, maybe a month later, they were different. The dog was kind of off, acting a little sore, got better a couple of days later. That's the most common symptom that we see. When we hear that, we always recommend testing for these diseases. But some of these diseases can be life-threatening with respiratory depression, sometimes some central nervous system signs like seizures, or things like that, or they can affect red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. So, we always recommend testing for them because if we catch them, we can always manage them and get your pet in a healthier place.

How are fleas and ticks treated?

Our biggest recommendation to treat fleas and ticks is to put dogs on prevention. So the two biggest preventions that we like to carry here are Bravecto and Simparica. They're part of the newest drug class on the market—the isoxazolines; they’re incredibly effective. They kill fleas and ticks within 12 hours of them getting on your pet. And all of our clients that start on these products are always super happy with them. They tend to go oral or topical sometimes, and pets tend to enjoy them too. They taste like a treat, and they tend to do much better than some of the products that have been on the market for quite some time. Some of the over-the-counter products that you can get at your local grocery store or pet supply store are ineffective because we're starting to see some resistance to the compounds in those products. Our first recommendation is to get flea and tick preventatives from your veterinarian.

What is the best way to remove a tick from my dog if I notice one?

I recommend getting a little bit of isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab and rubbing the area. The ticks tend not to like isopropyl or rubbing alcohol. Once you get it off, you can put them in a little cup of it, and it'll kill them. So, sometimes they'll remove on their own if you dab them with a little bit of rubbing alcohol. Otherwise, the next step would be maybe using a pair of tweezers or something like that. The biggest thing is you want to make sure that you get the head. So, if you're concerned about removing a tick from your dog, don't hesitate to give us a call. We're happy to take them off for you.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Flea & Tick FAQs 2


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

What are the diseases associated with fleas and ticks?

We see a lot of tick-borne diseases in this area. The most common one that people think of is Lyme's Disease, and we see plenty of Lyme's Disease cases over here. We also see things like Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis—those can definitely affect your pets in this area. And then in terms of fleas, not only can they carry things like tapeworm eggs, so if your pet were to eat a flea they could get tapeworms that way. But they can also cause things like anemia if there's enough of them on your pet, because all of these nasty buggers feed on blood.

If my dog is diagnosed with fleas and ticks what is the treatment to get rid of them?

The best thing to do, right Coconut, is to get them on prevention. And so we want to keep them on prevention year-round down here because the weather gets warm in the winter, so we don't see anything die off per se. And so we can make some recommendations based on the needs of your pet. But my favorite products that we have here in the clinic are going to be Simparica Trio or regular Simparica or Bravecto.

What is the flea life cycle and why is it important to know this for treatment?

Fleas go through stages. Many times what you see is the adult flea on your pet, but what they'll do is once they take a blood meal, they'll get off of your pet and into the environment. So whether that be in your carpet, couch, bedspread, or your pillows, they'll then lay their eggs. And then those eggs will go through a period of time. And then when the temperature and humidity and the light and everything like that is right, those eggs will hatch and develop into a pupal or a larval stage, and then they'll grow into the adult flea. And so what we want to make sure is that we're targeting the whole life cycle to get rid of those fleas.

Are flea and tick treatments painful?

No, they're not painful for your pet, but what might be more painful are some of the secondary things we see from fleas and ticks like skin infections or the itchiness or things like that. But giving them a preventative product or even giving them a regular old bath isn't painful.

How do I get rid of fleas and ticks in our home?

There are some over-the-counter products like foggers or bombs or things like that that you can pick up at your local hardware store or Lowe's or Home Depot or places like that. You can also work with a professional pest control company to help get rid of those fleas. But it's vital that you target that environment as well as your pet, because we see about maybe 5% of the flea population on your pet and the remaining 95% of that flea population is in your home.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Flea & Tick FAQs 3


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

What are fleas and ticks?

They're ectoparasites that take a blood meal from your pet for their reproductive life cycle, their day-to-day meals.

What do fleas and ticks look like?

Fleas are dark brown, fast, and like to jump. They're smaller, maybe around the size of a pinhead. They're tiny, but they are visible to the naked eye, and then ticks kind of look like a distorted spider, maybe, is the best way to describe them. They've got a big old belly and itty bitty legs.

What is the difference between fleas and ticks, and how do they affect my dog?

The big difference between them is their physical appearance. And the other big difference is going to be the diseases that fleas and ticks carry. And so they affect your pet in the sense that ticks can transmit tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, or fleas can commonly cause secondary skin infections or things like that.

Where do fleas live, and how do they get on my dog?

You'll find fleas and ticks outside. That's where they start, and then they'll get on your pet when your pet goes outside. And then they'll take a meal from your pet, a blood meal, and then they'll jump off your pet into your home or your home environment. And that's how they get inside.

Can fleas and ticks affect other pets or people?

Fleas don't discriminate. They don't mind getting on your other dog and start biting them. Or sometimes, if they're bad enough, they'll bite you. They generally don't discriminate in that sense. Ticks are kind of the same way. Once they get into the house, they don't care who they feed on, as long as they're getting a meal.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Flea & Tick - FAQs 4


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

How can I keep my dog from getting fleas and ticks?

The best thing to do is keep them on a year-round oral or topical prevention from your veterinarian.

What are the different types of fleas and tick prevention?

We've got Simparica TRIO, which is my favorite, as it protects against everything, such as fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal parasites. We've got regular Simparica and Bravecto. And all of these products are in the newest drug class for flea and tick preventative, and they're super effective.

How will I know what is the best type of prevention to get for my dog?

So, that's an excellent conversation to have with your veterinarian. If your dog struggles to eat an oral product, or maybe they're picky, then perhaps a topical is the way to go. Perhaps you're looking for just flea and tick prevention, and you're not looking for anything for heartworm or intestinal parasites, and they can help you find a product there.

Is flea prevention needed year-round?

I would highly recommend it year-round. We don't see cold enough winters here for really anything to die off. And so we see them on your pets year-round here in the clinic, and so I would strongly recommend you keep them on prevention year-round.

Are there vaccines for fleas and tick-borne diseases?

There is a vaccine for Lyme disease that is available that we even carry here in the clinic that we can administer to your pet, but they haven't done a ton of development on some of those other diseases that are transmitted out there.

Will fleas and ticks resolve on their own?

No. Fleas' primary source is food, and that's what they're looking for, and that's how they view your pet, is as a food source, and so they're not going to go away, and they're not going to resolve because they like the free meal.

Are there home remedies to prevent fleas and ticks?

There are some more homeopathic and quote-unquote natural remedies out there. The question is how effective they're going to be, and it depends on what kind of situation you're in. And again, I'm going to always recommend a prescription product for your pet because I think that will offer the best protection.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Flea & Tick - FAQs 5


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

How do vets find fleas on dogs?

Sometimes it's as simple as running my finger against the growth of the hair to look at that skin deep down to see if I can see any. Sometimes I don't see the actual live flea itself, but I can see some evidence that they've been there in terms of what we call flea dirt, which is flea poop. As gross as it sounds, that's what it is, the fecal material of the flea that they leave behind while they're on your pet.

How can I tell the difference between flea dirt and regular dirt?

Flea dirt is digested blood, and so we have a fun trick here that we'll do in the clinic where, if we're suspicious of it, we'll put that dirt on a paper towel, and we'll get it wet. And what happens to dried blood when you get it wet is, it turns back into that normal red blood color.

Is a test necessary to diagnose fleas?

No. Other than visual confirmation, or the evidence that we see of fleas being there, there's no blood test or anything like that that we'll do here at the clinic.

What do flea bites look like?

Sometimes, those are a little small to see with the naked eye, but they can have some secondary reactions. It's not uncommon for pets to be allergic to flea saliva, but we can see some secondary skin infections because of fleas. And so you might see red bumps, pimples, ulcerated areas, maybe some scabs, or things like that.

Can my dog have fleas if there are no signs on them?

Yes. Any pet can pick up fleas; any pet can have fleas. Some products repel, just like you and I put on bug spray to repel mosquitoes, but a lot of the preventative products that we have here require the flea to bite the pet to uptake that medication kills them, so it's possible.

If one pet in the household has fleas, will the other ones get fleas?

Generally, the answer to that is yes. Fleas don't discriminate, so you want to make sure that all your pets are protected.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Flea & Tick - FAQs 6


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

How do veterinarians find ticks on dogs?

We find ticks on dogs just the same way you guys do. Many times, we're looking for the tick themselves. We'll just run our hands over their bodies, see if we can feel anything. Owners will often think they're tiny nodules or masses or things like that, and once we get a closer look, sometimes we realize they're a tick.

Is there a test to diagnose tick-borne diseases?

There is. We use the IDEX SNAP 4Dx here in the clinic, and it tests for heartworm disease and the common tick-borne diseases that we see in this area. So we commonly use it to also test for heartworm disease.

What can I look for if I suspect my dog has ticks?

Looking for the tick itself is going to be a big thing. Making sure that you have your pet on a preventative to try to prevent them, to kill that tick if they do bite your pet is going to be the best thing. But if you're concerned that they may have had a tick and developed a tick-borne disease, then testing at the veterinary hospital would be the way to go.

Can my dog still have ticks if there are no signs of them?

Yeah, sometimes they're tiny and hard to find. So even though you might not see a big, fat, obvious sucker right on your dog's nose doesn't mean that they're not there.

If one pet in the household has ticks, will the others get bitten?

It's possible. Ticks don't discriminate. So once they take a blood meal from one pet and digest that, they may go over to you or another pet for another meal.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Flea & Tick - FAQs 7


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

What diseases are associated with fleas and ticks?

Many times we think about tick-borne diseases, so something like Lyme's Disease is one that many people have heard of, which is a tick-transmitted disease that your pet can get. We also think of flea allergy dermatitis, or a skin infection that your pet could get after having a flea infestation.

Where would my dog get fleas and ticks?

They're generally going to get them from outside, that's where all of these things start, but if they happen to make their way into your home environment, then they could pick them up.

Is a short-haired dog more susceptible to getting fleas and ticks?

They do not discriminate, so whether your dog has short hair, long hair, or no hair, they will be there.

Can my dogs still get fleas and ticks in the winter?

They can, especially here in Kentucky—it's not like Alaska, where it gets super cold, so we see fleas and ticks all year round.

What factors can increase my dog's risk of getting fleas and ticks?

If your dog is spending a lot of time outside or in the woods, maybe in fields with tall grass or things like that, and they're not on prevention, then they're at a higher risk for contracting these parasites.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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