Haven’t we all had enough of this extremely harsh & long-lasting winter? Spring has made its appearance in our NC neck of the woods, and it just feels fantastic to be able to walk & sit outside while enjoying the warm sun rays on your skin.
If only it weren’t for all those critters ranging from irritating to life-threatening which Spring has in tow for us…
# 1 tip: Avoid walking your dog in tall grassy areas & brush in wooded areas, as those are favored by fleas & ticks. Also don’t let your dog swim in standing waters, as they may harbor snakes.
# 2 tip: Protect yourself by applying an organic insect repellent spray, which isn’t harmful to your pets (I personally love the Adios Outdoor Spray by Just Neem!).
In order to avoid an uncomfortable encounter with pests, prevention is key.
There are chemical-based treatments such as oral or topical ones (e.g. K9 Advantix, Frontline, Heartguard, Tri-Heart Plus, Revolution, Sentinel ~ to name a few ~ applied monthly against fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and heart worms).
Your vet will usually give you a better deal on those medications if you purchase several months worth of them. I found that buying them online gives you an even greater discount. There are several different online retailers and pet pharmacies you can compare prices at.
Be aware of the fact that some of the medications require a prescription from your vet (such as Heartguard), so you will have to provide your vet’s information when ordering those online.
Your vet will be contacted by the online retailer and asked to confirm the prescription.
Unfortunately, natural preventatives are much less effective. Consult a holistic veterinarian to learn more about this option.
Update: Since switching from kibble to a raw diet in early 2015, I have incorporated several lifestyle changes, to include ditching the harsh, chemical pest preventatives and using ONLY natural ones. They DO WORK! I use Dr. Harvey’s Herbal Protection Spray as well as Anicura’s Natural Insect Repellent. I also started adding a little minced garlic to the pups’ diet – read about my Myth-Busting post about garlic by clicking the link below:
Preventative Measures For The Outside
If you have a yard, keep the grass trimmed & the landscape clean (any shady areas such as dead leaves and large amounts of pine needles make for perfect breeding & hiding grounds).
Ticks like to sit in grassy areas & bushes and let themselves fall onto their canine (or feline, for that matter) prey.
Fleas & lice prefer shady & covered areas to live in & reproduce, such as the underpart of a deck or crawl space, or under yard debris. They don’t do well in open, sunny areas.
A Word About Heartworms
They can also be inflicted upon pets who stay mostly indoors, as the heartworm larvae are transmitted by mosquitoes.
Once the larvae have matured, they take up residence in the host’s heart and / or lungs, causing a potentially fatal infection.
They can live inside a host for several years, but can be detected through blood tests and chest X-rays at your vet’s office.
Prevention really is key here,
and can easily be done by putting your pup on a monthly preventive medication. Have your pup tested for Heartworms once per year during his Wellness Checkup.
Heartworm-specific symptoms include breathing difficulties, fatigue, coughing, and wheezing.
Update: Your best bet for keeping heartworms away from your pup is boosting his immune system by feeding a healthy, natural, species-appropriate diet.
Side-note: Herding breeds generally don’t tolerate certain anti-parasitical drugs which contain the ingredient Ivermectin (such as Australian Shepherds & Collies).
Ivermectin is found in Heartguard, Ivomec, Zimectrin, Iverhart, Tri-Heart, as well as in several generic medications. Consult your veterinarian about different alternatives.
Prevention Inside Your Home
Most companion dogs spend the majority of their time inside their homes, making this environment an extremely important one on the prevention-to-do list!
As far as the interior of your house is concerned: if you have carpets, vacuuming on a regular basis is key to staying on top of flea & lice prevention.
Exchange your vacuum bag regularly, or empty and wash out your bag-less vacuum filter frequently if you have one. You don’t want the minuscule foe crawling back out of their prison now, do you?
Washing Dog Bedding
Wash all dog bedding on a regular, weekly basis. This includes their dog bed covers (they usually come off and are machine-washable; dry them on a low setting in the dryer or better yet, let them air-dry. I found out the hard way that they have a tendency to shrink!) as well as doggie blankets you may use to protect furniture such as couches or beds.
If you don’t use any protective covers or blankets, include those areas in your vacuum chores. I vacuum every other day, and sometimes even every day when the pups are shedding.
We use a bag-less vacuum cleaner whose filter gets washed out in the tub with warm, soapy water once a week. Some may refer to me as a bit of a clean-freak, but I call it smart prevention 🙂
Bathing Your Pup
Speaking of tubs: Obviously your dog’s grooming needs will depend on her breed, but all dogs benefit from regular bath time (be careful not to overdo it, as too much washing will rid the coat of its natural oils and make it look dull).
Be Prepared For Emergencies
Know what to do in a case of an emergency! This includes performing first-aid for allergic reactions and who to call (your vet during normal business hours, an emergency vet number / animal hospital for after hour emergencies).
Keep those numbers handy! You can program them into your phone, put them on your fridge, and apply them to your doggie first aid kit.
First Aid Kit
Have a first-aid kit readily available (preferably one in your house and one in your car). I strongly recommend keeping Benadryl readily available in case of allergic reactions. It helped us when Missy once had a case of hives (I have NO idea what could have caused it, it must have been something she encountered on our walk) on a weekend, of course.
She weighs a little over 50 lbs, so I stuck to the 1-mg-per-lb-of-dog formula and gave her 2 pills of Benadryl (1 pill = 25 mg) every 6 hours for 2 days. It cured her of the hives and relieved the itching.
Most Common Pests Found In The Continental USA:
Canine Lice (different from human lice, each respective species cannot be transmitted between hosts), almost motionless, small, look like dirt, biting & sucking blood kind.
Rare on well-groomed, healthy dogs (healthy diet & clean dog are key!), easy to treat with specific bug-killing dog shampoos.
Fleas (tiny, fast moving, can jump 15 times their size), feed on blood, cause itching red bumps, skin infections, reproduce fast (only live for 100 days, but have 400-500 offspring within that time frame), can transmit dog tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum) & anemia.
Treat infestation with a thorough vacuuming job in combination with carpet powders which will kill the remaining flea population.
Wash all dog bedding on the hot cycle (or throw it out altogether), and treat all areas that fido has access to with an insect growth regulator (including his backyard, patio, and porch areas if applicable).
Put your pup in a tub, and use a flea comb to pick up fleas from your dog’s skin (let them drown in the bathwater); use a flea shampoo to get rid of adult fleas and larvae.
Ticks, bite & suck blood, fall off of host when fully engorged (they look like jelly beans by that time), can transmit Lyme disease & Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis (infection of the white blood cells), and Babesiosis (infection of the red blood cells).
Can also cause anemia & paralysis. Common types are the American Deer Tick (only found in North America), the Brown Dog Tick, the Lone Star Tick, and the American Dog Tick.
Ticks need to be carefully removed as soon as possible, making sure that the head is pulled out along with the rest of the body.
Don’t touch the tick with your bare hands, and use tweezers or a specific tick removing tool (I found a good one while attending the Super Pet Expo at the Dulles Convention Center in NoVa, it’s called Tick Twister).
Tick Twister & Storm Whistle
Tick Twister Booth Seen At Global Pet Expo 2016
Treat the tick site on your dog with a topical antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin. It’s a good idea to save the tick (an empty water bottle would work) and take it to your vet for testing of potential diseases it may carry.
Whenever coming back from a hike with your pup, check him (and yourself) for ticks.
Some ticks aren’t active in fall & winter, but the American Deer Tick is active as long as the temperature is above freezing.
Fire Ants, bite & sting, found in the southern part of the US (including our state of NC, sigh). They build mound nests with irregular forms (I’ve seen a lot of crescent-formed ones here in NC).
Their sting is painful, and can be alleviated by dabbing some ammonia, lemon juice or vinegar on the puncture (all contain acid which reduces pain & itching sensation).
The Comfy Cone
Make sure not to let your pup lick any of what you’re choosing to apply off, especially ammonia which is toxic once ingested. It may be a good idea to have him wear an e-collar (or Comfy Cone, indeed more comfy!) until the urge to scratch at the wound goes away.
Buzz still able to chew on his antler while wearing the Cone
Comfy Cone Booth Seen At Global Pet Expo 2016
Stinging, flying insects such as Bees, Wasps, Yellowjackets, Hornets, Mosquitoes (transmit heartworms).
Should your dog get stung and the stinger remains in its skin, scrape it out with a stiff object, such as a credit card or a piece of cardboard. Not removing it can cause more venom to be pumped into the wound.
Treat any swelling with a cold pack placed on top of a wet cloth (frozen vegetable bag works too); a swelling inside the mouth can be treated with an icecube.
You can also give your dog the antihistamine Benadryl to bring down the swelling every 6-8 hours (1 mg for each lb of dog; Benadryl usually comes in pills containing 25 mg, so you would administer 2 pills to a 50 lb dog).
In case of anaphylactic shock (collapse), take your dog to a vet immediately!
(Poisonous) spiders & snakes, bite, can be painful and relieved with ice on the puncture. Poisonous bites need to be treated by a vet and may require an anti-venom injection, antibiotic, and / or intravenous pain medication.
Should this be the case, it is important to keep your dog as still as possible so as not to spread more venom and apply ice to the wound after having washed it with COLD water & soap.
Carry him to the car if possible and get him to the vet right away! If it will take you up to an hour to get to the vet, place a tight bandage between the wounded area and the heart to slow the spread of the venom.
Poisonous spiders include the Widow Spiders (southern, western, & northern widow, black & shiny, and brown widows), Brown Spiders (brown recluse is the most common one, although there are about 10 species), and Tarantulas (large & hairy).
Elapid snakes include the Pit Vipers who strike and immediately let go (rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins ~ the latter are also known as cottonmouths due to the white interior of their mouth) and Coral Snakes who have a colored banding, and who bite and hang on (Eastern, Texas, and Arizona Coral Snake).
Bottom Line: As for so many other reasons, having a healthy doggie immune system is also key in preventing pests. Healthy dogs are much less prone to attracting parasites who prefer a weak host. Keep your dog well fed (healthy diet, don’t overfeed!) & exercised, and monitor her stomping grounds.