A couple of weeks ago, my mom and dad went off on one of their vacations, leaving us dogs at a kennel. There was a nice, grassy play area there, but we came home from the kennel with TICKS! So, I figured today I’d take the opportunity to pass along some information about various bloodsuckers—fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.
Blood sucking pests make us fighting mad!
Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes are all ugly little creatures with tiny little mouths made especially for sucking the life-blood out of the warm, soft bodies of corgis…and other animals. These nasty creatures carry all sorts of disgusting diseases which can annoy, irritate, sicken or even kill your corgi!
Ticks come in various shapes and sizes, depending on their type and stage of life. The tiniest ticks are called seed ticks; these are the larval stage of the adult tick and are about the size of a pencil point. Huge bundles of these baby ticks can be hanging on a grass blade or bush—brush against it and you have a mess on you! Seed ticks seem to enjoy latching on to the very edges of our silky ears. They are so small they are hard to see and they are so small they are hard to remove. Seed ticks are awful!
Larger ticks also like to congregate in grassy areas, especially grassy areas where large mammals like cattle and horses are kept. These more mature ticks like to find the less hairy areas of us dogs—our tummies, armpits, skin folds, muzzles, between our toes and again, ears. Ticks start out as basically round or oval shaped, flat things that swell up, expand and turn grayish as they fill up with OUR blood.
Once a tick gets on us dogs, we need our humans’ help to get them off. The best way to get them off is to just grab firmly and pull straight out (they are icky, so wear gloves or use tweezers or something.) My mom flushes the ticks down the toilet; they are hard to kill by smashing, so I guess the toilet graveyard is a good place for them. Some people keep the ticks in some sort of little container in case a vet needs to examine them later.
Ticks in huge numbers have been known to kill dogs from sheer blood loss, but more commonly, ticks are dangerous because of the diseases they carry, like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted tick fever among others. Most tick-borne diseases in dogs cause lethargy, fever, loss of appetite; if your dog displays these symptoms after a tick bite, head to the vet right away.
It is hard to get rid of ticks once they’re on your dogs. There are tick shampoos, sprays, collars, and topical medications, all of which work with varying success. Even with these chemical products, ticks can sometimes remain on your dog for quite some time before they finally die. The only sure-fire way to get these monsters off your dog is simply to pull them off. The best defense against ticks is a good offense. Have your lawn treated by a professional pest control company, making sure to heed all warnings about the toxicity of the product. Next, treat your dog with a tick preventative. Remember, not all flea collars, sprays, and topicals work on ticks—if ticks are your problem, be sure you are using a product that works on fleas AND ticks.
Speaking of fleas, ugh! Fleas are the Olympians of the parasite world; those little suckers can JUMP. They jump from dog to dog, dog to person, dog to carpet; they just jump where ever they want. Even the cleanest homes and hounds can pick up fleas and then the fight is on!
Fleas don’t latch on and feed in one place on us dogs; fleas will feast a while in one spot then hop on to a different body part for dessert. This makes them sneakier and harder to track down than the tick. Fleas like to hide in the fur of your dog and they’ll snack just about anywhere on us. One sure sign of fleas on your dog is “flea dirt.” If your dog is itchy and you don’t know why, ruffle the fur and look for what looks like pepper or dirt next to his skin. This is really flea poop and means that fleas are nearby.
During warm weather months, my mom has a periodic ritual for us dogs she calls “a looking.” This is when she downs us, rubs our fur against the grain and looks for fleas and flea dirt. Some dogs hate this, but I think it is particularly nice to spend time getting rubbed by mom. If mom finds a flea, she picks it off and smashes it. That part is pretty gross.
Fleas cause a serious itching problem. Some dogs, like my sister Sadie, are actually allergic to flea spit and can end up with horrible skin irritation and breathing problems from just one flea bite. Like ticks, the real danger from fleas is the transmission of disease—fleas also transmit some internal parasites like tapeworms.
Fleas are, thankfully, controllable with topical preparations. Some of these, like Advantix and Frontline, can kill existing fleas and prevent new ones from attacking. Some pet parents also use flea powders and flea collars, but these aren’t always as effective. Getting fleas out of your house may be hard. Get a professional exterminator to help, and while you’re at it, get your yard treated, too.
Mosquitoes are blood suckers that fly, kind of like little miniature Draculas. A mosquito will fly over, land on you, suck out a quick drink of blood, and then fly away. Their bites are super-itchy and very dangerous to dogs. Mosquitoes carry the dreaded heartworms. Be sure to keep your dogs on heartworm preventative all year round!
Mosquitoes are controlled by controlling their breeding ground—standing water. Make sure you don’t have any containers with standing water around your home and don’t walk your dogs in marshy areas where mosquitoes live.
I really love my humans, so the thing that bothers me most about ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes is that they bite my humans, too. I’m a pretty tough little girl, but it would break my heart if my mom and dad came down with some pest-borne illness. And I certainly don’t want my parents all itchy—when they are scratching bites, they aren’t able to pet me!
Come on, pet me. You know you want to.