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Dog Fleas and Ticks - Diagnosing, Treating, and Preventing Dog Fleas and Ticks


How does my dog get fleas and ticks?

They can get fleas and ticks from being outdoors and having a flea either jump onto them. In the case of ticks, if you are running or hiking with your animal, or even just have long grass play session in your backyard, a tick can latch on from the top of the grass onto your dog.



Dr. Julie Mosher
Haines Road Animal Hospital

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

Yes, they can. That's something significant about the life cycle of fleas—it’s only one to 5% of the adults that are even on your dog, and 95% are in your home. So it is something that we want to treat in your dogs, so you have an overall very healthy home.

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

Yes, they definitely can. A widespread misperception is that my animal can't have fleas or ticks because I live on my apartment’s second story floor. Unfortunately, we can bring fleas and ticks into them as well. And I know we're not talking about cats right now, but even cats can get fleas when they're indoor only.

What health problems can fleas and ticks cause my dog?

Fleas eat your dog's blood, so if there's a bad enough infestation, it can start to affect the levels of blood that your dog has, which can be very concerning, especially in puppies. And ticks can transmit a lot of different diseases. One of the ones that most people know about would be Lyme disease, which animals can also get.

How effective are flea and tick medications, and is there a difference between over-the-counter and prescription?

Flea and tick medications can be very useful. They're very good at continuing to update the ingredients needed as fleas and ticks start to grow resistance. I would say the area that I'm in, in Pinellas County, we have a very bad flea resistant population, so the only things that I see that are effective are the prescription medications, and a lot of times, over-the-counter medications just aren't cutting it for these dogs.

What different types of flea and tick preventative treatments are there?

We have oral medications. Oral medications are some of my favorite because your dog thinks you're giving them such a tasty treat, and those seem to be the most effective, as well. Some of the ones that we recommend would be Simparica, and then we also have topical medications, as well, where you'll just go ahead and put the liquid in between the shoulder blades, and those can be effective, as well.

What will my veterinarian recommend for flea and tick treatment?

I would recommend coming to your veterinarian for prescription flea and tick treatment, and chatting with us, too, because sometimes we have products like Simparica Trio, where we can make a flea, tick, and heartworm treatment all in one treat.

How can I identify fleas on my dog?

Sometimes fleas, you can see the actual fleas moving, but sometimes you can also just see the flea dirt, which is only the digestive material of what the fleas ate. Sometimes owners might think that their dog looks very dirty, like he rolled outside in some dirt, and sometimes that can also be fleas, as well, so I would recommend taking your animal to a veterinarian if you're concerned about fleas.

How can I identify ticks on my dog?

Ticks in dogs look very similar to ticks in humans. They are little black insects that start to grow as they ingest more blood of your dog. They love to go in underneath the armpit and in darker areas like that. If you identify one, though, make sure that you call your veterinarian just to make sure that you're removing it correctly because sometimes we can also have issues with that as well.

What should I do if I see fleas or ticks on my dog?

If you see fleas or ticks on your dog, I would recommend that you call us, and we can help guide you through how to treat your animal best.

If you still have questions and would like to reach out to us, call us directly at (727) 351-8478, email us, or reach out on Facebook, and we will get back to you as quickly as possible!

Dog Fleas & Ticks FAQs


Dr. Julie Mosher
Haines Road Animal Hospital

What diseases are associated with fleas and ticks?

There are a lot. I'll just go through some of the most common ones. If fleas and ticks ingest enough of your dog's blood, this ingestion can cause anemia or low red blood cell count, which can be life-threatening to your dog—also, there are some common tick-borne diseases that we know. Lyme would be one of the most common ones. And dogs can also be clinical with Lyme disease as well.

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

We have great oral medications that we recommend. One of them that I like the best would be Simparica or Simparica Trio, which is incredibly helpful if you want to incorporate heartworm medication. And those usually do a very effective job of getting rid of fleas and ticks.

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

That's a great question. Knowing the flea life cycle is essential because the fleas you and I see are only one to five percent of the whole flea community’s population. 95% are immature fleas that reside in your house, in areas like the carpet, bedding, things like that. So it's important to know that because not only do we need to treat the animal for at least three months while the immature population matures, but we also need to do a thorough cleaning of your house to get rid of that 95% of the community.

Are flea and tick treatments painful?

Not at all. I have a chocolate lab myself, and whenever I give him his flea and tick preventative, he thinks it's the best treat ever.

What are the risks of treatments?

Risks are very minimal. Sometimes I've seen some GI upset, but usually, if you give the flea and tick medication with food, that prevents that.

Are there natural or over the counter treatments for fleas and ticks?

I have heard of some. I did not learn of any in vet school. And I do just have to let you know that you need to be very, very careful because I have seen in some blogs where owners have tried to use garlic to repel fleas and ticks. And I should warn you that garlic is toxic to dogs. And I've also seen some owners try to use some essential or natural oils, although some varieties of those can also be toxic. So before you use anything over the counter or anything like that, chat with your veterinarian.

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

That's a great question. So to get rid of that 95% of the population, daily vacuuming is essential. Also, be incredibly thorough in washing the dog’s beds and any rugs. The most effective treatment that I've seen, though, is simply to make sure that we treat your animal for three months because fleas can only live a few days without being on their host.

If you still have questions and would like to reach out to us, call us directly at (727) 351-8478, email us, or reach out on Facebook, and we will get back to you as quickly as possible!

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