Spring is finally here, but so are the dog pests!
Doesn’t it just feel so good to be able to walk our pups and sit outside while enjoying the warm sun rays on our skin?
If only it weren’t for all those critters that range from irritating to life-threatening that Spring has in tow for us.
That said, I’ve found a few good work arounds for different dog pests and I’m about to list every last one of them.
Ready? Let’s jump right in!
Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated in 2023. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you.
How To Enjoy Spring & Summer Without The Dog Pests!
First things first – the following are my favorite preventative approaches to avoid dog pests like ticks, fleas and mosquitoes:
(1) Avoid Tall Grassy Areas With Your Dogs
Don’t walk your dog in tall grassy areas & brush in the woods because that’s where fleas and ticks like to hang out.
I always try my darnedest to steer clear of those tall grassy areas during spring and summer and walk Wally on paved trails instead.
That said, be mindful of how hot the pavement can get during the summer months!
If you have a yard, keep the grass trimmed and the landscape clean.
Shaded areas like dead leaves and large amounts of pine needles make for perfect breeding and hiding grounds for those little suckers.
(2) Avoid Standing Waters
That’s where mosquitoes like to hang out and they’re the ones that carry heart worms, so yeah.
Also, don’t let your dog swim in standing waters because you never know what may be lurking in there.
Here in NC, there’s all sorts of water snakes and there’s no way I’m letting my pups swim in those ponds!
(3) Use Organic Insect Repellent Sprays On Yourself
Protect yourself with organic insect repellent spray that’s not harmful to your pets.
Wondercide’s Indoor Pest Control Spray is also great to use inside your home. It comes in Cedarwood, Lemongrass, Peppermint and Rosemary.
What I like about Wondercide’s products in general is that they’re plant based and cruelty-free!
(4) Use Natural Dog Pest Repellents On Your Dog(s)
Treat your pup with natural dog pest preventatives whenever possible.
They’re so much more gentle on their body than chemical-based treatments like K9 Advantix, Frontline and similar products.
I personally ditched those harsh chemical dog pest preventatives back in 2015 when I switched my pups Missy & Buzz from kibble to raw dog food.
Natural products I’ve successfully used on my dogs against dog pests are the following:
I had also used Dr. Harvey’s Herbal Protection Spray and Anicura’s Organic Insect Repellent, but unfortunately both products aren’t available anymore.
I also learned about the dog pest preventing benefits of fresh garlic! Yes, garlic, and no, it’s not toxic to dogs when it’s fed a certain way.
You can find out more in my blog post below, including how much garlic to give your dog for fleas:
A Word About Heartworms in Dogs
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.
However, this typically only happens in dogs with poor immune systems.
Now that heartworms are becoming more resistant to heartworm meds like Heartguard, heartworms can live inside a host for several years.
According to holistic vets, they typically only do harm in dogs with weak immune systems, but not in those with strong immune systems.
Dogs Naturally Magazine has a great article on natural heartworm prevention without pills here.
Heartworm-specific symptoms include breathing difficulties, fatigue, coughing, and wheezing.
Tip: Your best bet for keeping heartworms away from your pup is boosting his immune system by feeding a healthy, natural, species-appropriate raw 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 (holistic) veterinarian about different alternatives.
Dog Pest 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 dog pest 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.
Change out 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 suckers crawling back out of their vacuum prison, right?
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 if you toss them into the dryer.
I also wash all doggie blankets that I 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 with a filter that 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.
However, 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 Dog Pest Related Emergencies
Know what to do in a case of an emergency!
This includes performing first-aid for allergic reactions and who to call. For example, your vet during normal business hours, an emergency vet number / animal hospital for after hour emergencies.
Keep those numbers handy! You can have them on speed dial in your phone, put them on your fridge, and apply them to your doggie first aid kit.
Dog First Aid Kit
Have a first-aid kit readily available (preferably one in your house and one in your car). I strongly recommend keeping Benadry readily available in case of allergic reactions to certain insect bites.
It helped us when Missy once had a case of hives on a weekend (of course). I have NO idea what could have caused it, it must have been something she encountered on our walk.
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 Dog Pests Found In The Continental USA
Canine Lice are different from human lice and each respective species cannot be transmitted between hosts.
They’re almost motionless, small, look like dirt, and there’s the biting & sucking blood kind.
They’re rare on well-groomed, healthy dogs (healthy diet & clean dog are key!) and are easy to treat with specific bug-killing dog shampoos.
Fleas are tiny, fast moving, and can jump 15 times their size.
They feed on blood, cause itching red bumps, skin infections and reproduce fast. That said, they only live for 100 days, but have 400-500 offspring within that time frame.
They can also transmit dog tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum) & cause anemia.
Treat flea infestations with a thorough vacuuming job in combination with carpet powders that kill the remaining flea population.
Wash all dog bedding on the hot cycle (or throw it out altogether), and treat all areas Fido has access to with an indoor dog pest control spray.
Put your pup in a tub, and use a dog flea comb to pick up fleas from your dog’s skin (let them drown in the bathwater).
Additionally, use a flea dog shampoo to get rid of adult fleas and larvae.
Ticks bite and suck blood and fall off of their host when they’re fully engorged (they look like jelly beans by that time).
They can transmit Lyme disease & Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis (infection of the white blood cells) and Babesiosis (infection of the red blood cells).
Ticks can also cause anemia and paralysis.
Common types are the:
- American Deer Tick (only found in North America)
- Brown Dog Tick
- Lone Star Tick
- American Dog Tick
Ticks need to be carefully removed as soon as possible. When you do, make 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 called Tick Twister.
Treat the tick site on your dog with a topical antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin.
Whenever you come back from a hike or walk with your pup, check him (and yourself) for ticks.
Some ticks aren’t active in fall and winter, but the American Deer Tick is active as long as the temperatures are above freezing
Fire Ants bite and sting.
They’re 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 with the antihistamine Benadryl.
Dogs can have 1 mg of Benadryl for every pound of body weight.
Stinging, flying insects such as Bees, Wasps, Yellowjackets, Hornets, Mosquitoes.
If your dog gets stung and the stinger remains in the 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.
Remember, the dosage is 1 mg for each lb of body weight. 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, which can be painful and relieved with ice on the puncture.
Deadly bites need to be treated by a vet and may require an anti-venom injection, antibiotic, and/or intravenous pain medication.
If you suspect that your dog got bitten by a deadly spider or snake, it’s important to keep your dog as still as possible. This prevents spreading more venom.
Also apply ice to the wound after you washed it with COLD water and 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)
- Tarantulas (large & hairy)
Elapid (venomous) 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.
Coral Snakes have a colored banding, and bite and hang on (Eastern, Texas, and Arizona Coral Snake).
How To Enjoy Spring & Summer Without The Dog Pests: Bottom Line
As for so many other reasons, having a healthy doggie immune system is also key in preventing dog pests.
Healthy dogs are much less prone to attracting parasites who prefer a weak host.
Keep your dog well fed on a healthy, minimally processed diet, provide regular exercise, and monitor her stomping grounds.
How do you and your pup(s) tackle pests? We’d love to hear from you in our comment section!
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