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How To Tackle Ticks And Fleas

May 28, 2021

Ticks are the creepy crawly monsters that feature in most pet parents’ nightmares. The mere sight of one of these bloodthirsty insects latched onto your pet’s skin is enough to cause a shiver to run down your spine. There are hundreds of different species of ticks that can transmit diseases like Lyme Disease, Tick-borne Relapsing Fever and some specific ticks also pass on tick borne encephalitis. Fleas are another type of parasite that also freely roam in a number of different variants. They are not commonly as lethal as ticks but are just as unwelcome.

dog

The good news is that there are ways to get rid of these tick insect infestations and preventive measures you can take to reduce the chance of a re-infestation! Here’s what you need to know about tackling ticks and fleas in India. 

Signs that your pet may have ticks and fleas 

Let’s start right at the beginning. How do you know if your pet has ticks or fleas? If it’s a bad infestation, you will definitely spot the ticks on dogs or fleas jumping on the fur. But if it’s just in the initial stages it may not be as obvious. These are the signs you should be on the lookout for through the year:

  • A lot of itchiness and scratching 
  • If you spot a tick anywhere in your home (yes, even a single one)
  • Shaking their head and scratching their ears
  • Some dogs are allergic to tick bites, so you will see bumps or rashes
  • Signs of flea dirt (black-brown powdery substance in the fur)
  • Red spots on your pet’s skin that may be from tick or flea bites

Checking your dog for ticks and fleas 

If you spot any of the above signs, you should immediately check your dog thoroughly for ticks or other parasites. You can turn this into a good cuddle session, showering them with belly rubs and scratchies along the way. 

  • Ticks find their host victims via heat sensors and they typically like warm, moist areas. Really popular spots include the groin and bum area, between the paw pads, the ear canal, inner flap and all around the ear. Also, check the underbelly and armpits
  • The fluffy warmth of the neck tempts ticks to hide there as well. But fleas are rarely found here.
  • Part the fur on the back or run your hand against the direction of the fur growth, so you can see the skin. The spot where the tail meets the body is another popular spot for ticks to hide. Fleas have also been known to hide there.
  • Fleas typically hang out in the groin and bum area. 
  • Don’t forget to check the snout and face, especially if your pet has lots of face folds. 
  • Sometimes, you may not spot a tick but see the rash or bump that a bite has left behind

HUFT Tip: Use your sense of touch as much as you use your sight. Sometimes you can feel a small tick or flea even if it’s hidden between long fur and you can’t see it.

Does my dog have ticks or fleas? 

Fleas and ticks are two different types of parasites that commonly infect both pet cats and dogs. They both bite and suck blood from their hosts and transmit diseases. Yes, there are different types of ticks, and tick-borne diseases are often more lethal than flea-borne. But fleas can pass on tapeworm and typhus. 

  • Spotting fleas: You may see blackish-brown specks sitting amidst your pet’s fur. This is often mistaken to be flea eggs but they are actually a mixture of flea poop and a blood meal. If you spot flea dirt on your pet that means that the fleas have stayed on long enough to have a meal. You are likely to spot flea dirt before you spot the fleas themselves. To test if it’s flea dirt, place the flea dirt on a wet kitchen tissue and you’ll see it leaving red stains. 
  • Appearance: When you do spot a flea, you will notice that they are very fast and adept at running through your pet’s fur to avoid capture. Fleas also jump very quickly and high. They are so quick and tiny (0.1 to 0.32 cm in size) that it will be hard to spot them once they jump away. 
  • Spotting ticks: Tick dirt is not as noticeable and you’ll probably see the tick insect first. Your dog may not be as itchy as he would if he had fleas but you should check your dog’s coat for ticks frequently. 
  • Appearance: Ticks are larger than fleas and look a lot like very small spiders. Unlike fleas, they do not move or jump away, once they latch onto your pet, they bite the skin and stay still, feeding off your pet. 

HUFT Tip: Whichever your dog has, it is extremely important that you act immediately to get rid of them. For every pest you see on your dog, there are at least three in your environment. Both parasites lay multiple eggs at a time, so infestations can get out of hand very quickly.  

How do you remove a tick from your pet

Ticks are much easier to catch than fleas. Ticks move slower and are larger, often you find them with their mouth embedded into the skin.

  • Spread the fur around the tick back so you have a clear space to work with.
  • Grasp the tick at a point that is as close to the skin as possible and pull it out gently.
  • This is so you don’t tear the tick and leave any parts still stuck to the skin.
  • Don’t release the tick back into the environment or it will simply crawl back.
  • Some pet parents kill it and drop it into a prepared solution of diluted disinfectant.
  • Clean the bite area with a pet-safe antiseptic solution and wash your hands well.

How do you remove a flea from your pet?

Fleas are very fast and catching them by hand is quite tricky. You will have to do this as they run through your pet’s fur. Fleas can jump high and far as well so be prepared for this. Pet parents generally find it easier to kill fleas by applying an anti-tick and flea massage oil (like our Bug Repelling oil) and then a shampoo bath with warm water. This may have to be repeated every 10 days until the infestation is gone.

How do you get rid of ticks and fleas? 

After the initial horror of finding ticks on their dog, pet parents reach for the quickest way to get rid of them i.e., a bath with an anti-tick and flea shampoo. This generally kills most of the parasites that one can see on the dog and lulls us into a false sense of security. 

In truth, these parasites don’t stay just on your pet. They feed on your dog but wander about in your pet’s immediate surroundings. They could be laying eggs in your pet’s bedding, cracks in the wall, etc. So, a one-time act of a bath is generally insufficient to getting rid of the infestation and pet parents may see frequent relapses. 

This is why part of your treatment plan must also be to clean out your home thoroughly.
To eradicate ticks completely, you need to take on a 360° approach. Cleaning out your home thoroughly is just as important as topical anti-tick and flea solutions

cat tick

This a comprehensive approach to tackling tick and flea infestations: 

Step 1: Brush your pet

Give your pet a thorough anti-tick and flea groom. As a general approach, you can begin by brushing them well with a flea comb. You can locate and pick out many of the parasites this way. It will also give you an idea as to how bad the infestation is. 

HUFT Tip: Once you pick out a tick or a flea, don’t just throw it out the window or in your surroundings. It will come back to your pet. You kill it by dropping it in a container with a soapy solution. Or in the case of fleas, squish them with your nail before dropping them in soapy water. 

Step 2: Pre-bath massage

Before your pet’s bath, you could use natural, pet-safe neem oil, coconut oil and Scooby-Dub-Dub powder to massage onto your pet’s coat. Neem has strong, effective natural anti-parasitic properties to kill ticks and fleas. Scooby Dub Dub powder is a blend of 5 effective ayurvedic ingredients including Haritaki, Jatila, Vembaka, Kasturi Haridrah & Karpurah in specific measures. 

Food-grade Diatomaceous earth powder or our Anti Tick and Flea Powder pierces and dehydrates ticks, fleas and their eggs. You can use this as a preventive measure (explained below) as well as for a day or two before your pet’s bath.  

Step 3: Baths

Giving your pet a bath with an anti-tick and flea shampoo will give them relief from the itchiness of tick bites. It should also get rid of most of the ticks on your pet. You will likely have to repeat baths once in 10 days or 14 days until all the ticks are gone. 

 Step 4: Cleanse the environment 

Simultaneously, have carpets washed or vacuumed and if your pet sleeps on your bed or sofa, have it cleaned as well. You can even dust some anti-tick & flea powder on your dog's beds, blankets and other bedding items. If you don’t tackle the ticks in the surrounding area, they will climb back onto your pet after the effect of the anti-tick and flea shampoo wears off. 

HUFT Tip: Ticks, fleas and their eggs could also hide in the cracks of wooden furniture, door posts, between tiles, etc. Spraying these with a natural solution of Neem oil and ACV can help. Remember to keep up the thorough cleaning of the environment. This serves to eradicate the current infestation and discourage future ones. 

Step 5: Preventive plan 

Lyme disease in dogs is a serious illness and so, many pet parents put in place a long-term preventive plan to keep these pests at bay. This reduces the risk of pets getting infected with tick or flea-borne diseases. This involves both making your pet and your environment unpleasant for ticks to infest.

  • Discourage parasites in your pet’s immediate environment
  • Sprinkling diatomaceous earth around your pet’s bedding or in the garden has worked well in the past for pests like ticks. Solutions like Apple Cider Vinegar and neem oil have natural insect-repelling properties which have helped to keep these parasites at bay. Regular cleaning of your carpets, curtains and upholstery is also recommended. 

  • Include bug repellent preventive measures in everyday grooming
  • Do a tick check every day when you brush your pet. Using a Bug Repelling Massage Oil before baths is a great way to encourage a lush coat as well as keep pests at bay. This oil contains eucalyptus and lemongrass to repel parasites. The HUFT Paw Balm contains tick-repellent oils like neem, so parasites are discouraged from latching onto your pet’s paws. Our Anti Tick and Flea Spray can be used on the legs and body before walks and outings to deter pests. 

  • Build your pet’s immunity
  • Tick infestations are less likely to happen with pets who are healthy and eating a nutritious diet. It only takes a single tick to transmit dangerous diseases like tick fever and a strong immune system is important to fight these. Supplements like Golden Paste are important to strengthen the immune system. Measured inclusions of garlic is also said to help, over time, to discourage ticks from latching on. This should be included on the advice of a vet or certified canine nutritionist. 

    black dog

    A note on how to get rid of dog ticks with chemical measures

    Pills, Spot On treatments and other chemical anti-tick and flea measures do exist. But they need to be taken on advice of a trusted vet only. Chemical anti-tick and flea measures tend to take a toll on your pet’s liver so make sure that their diet includes food and treats that strengthens the liver such as our Nutri Wafers Dog Treat for Liver Support.

    Frequently Asked Questions 

    Is there a ‘tick season’?

    Tick eggs generally hatch during the warmer months, so spring and summer are often dubbed ‘tick season.’ However, ticks are not completely absent during other months, so you should always be on the look-out for them. Learning to spot ticks at different stages of  their life cycle helps you spot an infestation early and could also give you a clue as to how long the infestation has been around. Ticks go through four different life stages–Egg, Larva, Nymph and Adult. 

    Where do pets pick up ticks?

    Heavily wooded areas and places with tall grass are commonly where dogs pick up ticks. This could be your garden, your neighbour’s garden or the park. Your pet could have also picked them up from another dog. They could also jump onto your pet in places where dogs frequent like dog parks or the vet clinic. 

    Remember: Ticks can latch onto any passing host, even you when you’re on a hike, and then transfer to your pet. 

    Ticks like to hide between blades of grass and piles of leaves. They lie in wait for animals to pass through or brush by and sten climb onto their coat. It’s an ambush strategy. Unlike fleas, they can’t jump from one host to another, so they latch on. 

    Can ticks live on humans?

    Ticks on humans is not a far-fetched idea although they do not infest us in quite the same way. Just as ticks may jump onto your pet’s coat as they brush past on thick vegetation, the ticks could climb onto your clothing as well. However, since we do not have fur, they’re likely to be discovered fairly quickly. If there is a bad infestation in your home, you are just as exposed to the ticks as your dogs. A quick and thorough clean-up is highly recommended as humans can also contract Lyme disease from ticks.

    What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease or Tick Fever in dogs?

    The most common Lyme symptoms in dogs are fever, lethargy, a disinterest in food or a loss of appetite and swollen joints. If you suspect tick fever, we suggest a vet visit right away as the earlier the treatment begins, the better. 

    What are some of the different tick species? 

    There are over 800 different species of ticks in the world but there are some who do not transmit diseases to us or to our pets. Some are present only in certain parts of some countries. Some are likely to attack humans, like the Lone Star Tick or the tick with white spot that may bite humans and leave a circular rash. There are different types of ticks and different types may have different colours and markings. But they all have the same general body shape. A tick bug has a spidery appearance and may appear red if it’s latched on and feeding. White ticks are generally ticks that are engorged with blood and so change their appearance from brown-black to a silvery white or yellow. The Black tick and black-legged tick species are also common.

     

    *All imagery used is the property of Heads Up For Tails and cannot be used or distributed without prior permission.

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