Ticking Off Ticks And Making Fleas Flee

Rid your gun dog of these unwanted pests.

Spring is when a young man's thoughts turn to whatever young men think about, and a dog owner's thoughts turn to fleas and ticks. As an old owner of young dogs it seems like I have thought about and dealt with fleas and ticks forever.

Most of us get some reprieve from these pests as they are very seasonal in their activity. Here in the upper Midwest ticks usually appear on the first warm days of March. Fleas start a little later in the spring and have a peak activity period late in the summer when heat and humidity are at their highest.

In the warmer areas of the U. S. fleas and ticks are active the year around. However, even in the Midwest I have seen both fleas and ticks survive in a household situation all year long.

Fleas and ticks give our dogs trouble in a number of ways. A single flea can bite a dog more than 400 times in one day. These bites can cause an allergic reaction to proteins in the flea saliva, referred to as flea allergy dermatitis.

Fleas can cause anemia from their blood feeding. Ingested fleas transmit tapeworms and of course they make the dog's life miserable with their constant biting and crawling around.

Tick bites can transmit infections such as Lyme disease, Erhlichosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever to both pets and people.

Fortunately, flea and tick control has become much easier as new products have come on the market. Now good flea and tick control can be accomplished by only treating the pet, and only infrequently, in severe infestations, must the pet's environment be treated.

The best flea and tick control is prevention. I like the systemic products, especially the ones with fipronil and methoprene in them. Be sure to treat all the animals in the household. Read the product label carefully and watch especially for any age restrictions.

When using these products, be sure hair over the back is parted so the topical liquid can be placed directly on the skin. Treatment may be monitored by combing the dog with a fine-toothed "flea comb" and looking for fleas, eggs or flea dirt.

Young puppies with fleas can be a special problem for dog breeders. The source of the infestation is the bitch and it doesn't take long for the fleas to build up numbers on the puppies. This infestation leads to anemia from blood feeding and transmits tapeworms to the puppies, a deadly combination in the neonate.

Flea treatment for these young dogs is difficult as they are very sensitive to pesticides. I try to wash off the fleas and also comb them out of the hair.

Tick control mirrors flea control. It is important to start using a systemic product early in the tick season. I learned an important lesson about tick activity a few years ago when I went up to Grand Rapids, Minnesota for a grouse hunt. The day after I got home my wife asked me what all those little ticks were on my wirehair. I never dreamed that after a hard freeze in the middle of October there would be ticks out.

This was an important consideration as keeping these guys from attaching to the dog reduces their chance of transmitting Lyme and other diseases to near zero. If you do find attached ticks on your dog be very careful and remove them without squeezing them. I like to pinch their heads with my thumb and forefinger and then pull out the head along with a blob of skin. Then wash your hands thoroughly.

Fleas and ticks will always exist but with the current control products available your dogs should not suffer from these parasites. Remember, prevention is the best medicine!

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