Chapter 2, Protecting Your Pet Against Ticks, Fleas & Worms

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In this flipbook, you’ll learn about different worms, ticks and fleas, where your pet can get them, which pets are at risk, and how to protect against them.

6 Ways to Protect Your Puppy’s Health

Getting your first puppy can be an exciting day for anyone of any age. Your mind is racing with all the tricks you’re going to teach them, playing fetch in the park and all the cool toys.

But, there’s a step first that many don’t consider. Protection against ticks, fleas and worms is just as important when you’re learning how to take care of a puppy.

While you can’t control every illness or condition, protecting against ticks, fleas and worms is definitely something any owner can take control of.

Here are 6 ways you can protect your puppy’s health.

1 Understand the risk of ticks and fleas

While tiny, ticks can pose a significant threat to your puppy’s health. It’s important to recognize the various types out there so you can take the necessary steps to ensure that your puppy stays happy and safe. While it’s good to have a plan of action if your puppy is bitten, the best method of protection is early protection.

1 Understand the risk of ticks and fleas (cont..)

Many illnesses such as lethargy, fever, joint issues and even depression are caused by ticks and fleas, but this reason often goes unnoticed. Here are some diseases spread by ticks and fleas:

  1. Ticks2:
    1. Anaplasmosis – similar to Lyme disease in terms of signs, and can even occur simultaneously
    2. Babesiosis – occurs through the transference of the microscopic parasite within blood and causes jaundice, fever, discolored urine and death
    3. Ehrlichiosis – this often results in bleeding disorders, joint and limb pain, low platelet count, bone marrow deterioration and death
    4. Lyme disease – signs include lethargy, fever, joint pain and swollen lymph nodes
    5. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever – varied signs that include vomiting, diarrhea, joint pain, depression and death

1 Understand the risk of ticks and fleas (cont..)

  • Flea infestation3:
    • Anemia – a condition that can be caused by fleas that results in blood loss, and therefore reduced oxygen flow
    • Bartonella – causes stomach distress, fever, brain inflammation and can be transmitted to humans
    • Flea Allergy Dermatitis – causes rashes and bumps, hair loss, frequent itching and secondary skin infections
    • Tapeworm – spread via fleas and may cause gastrointestinal distress or obstruction

    1 Understand the risk of ticks and fleas (cont..)

    Where can your puppy come in contact with fleas and ticks?

    Your dog can pick up ticks and fleas in many different places – some of which you might not expect.

    1. Shrubbery
    2. Beaches
    3. Backyard
    4. Near bodies of water
    5. Even Indoors (indoor pets can still be susceptible if you have other pets that do go outside, visiting pets, travel with your pet or even from objects that come in from outdoors)

    Ticks and fleas lurk on shrubbery and are attracted to heat and fleas can even move from object to object. As a puppy owner, make sure you think about where you are walking your dogs, letting them play, as well as hunting, hiking and swimming. Talk to your vet about your pet’s lifestyle.

    2 Develop a tick and flea protection strategy

    Protecting your pet all year round is something many pet owners forget to do. Ticks and fleas are active anywhere above 35 degrees Fahrenheit, but are most rampant in the warmer months. In the winter, ticks take shelter underneath snow and leaf cover, while fleas can work their way indoors or under homes. In 2018 alone, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) had over 300,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in dogs.4

    Even if your puppy spends most of their time indoors, a single fertile female tick can lay anywhere from 4,000-15,000 eggs5 if given the opportunity. Some fleas can survive for several weeks once indoors, and can lay up to 50 eggs per day.3

    Infestations can take more than 2 months to resolve once treatments begin. Under normal conditions, most adult fleas generally survive 2-3 months. Moderate to severe flea infestations may take several months to bring under control.3

    2 Develop a tick and flea protection strategy (cont..)

    3 Understand the risk of worms

    The risk of heartworms and GI worms is present regardless of region. Since worm infections are nearly impossible to avoid, taking the right measures to ensure your puppy is adequately and repeatedly treated for worms can save them, and you, a world of trouble.

    1. Did you know that your dog’s risk of worms is higher if he or she does the following:
      1. Travels – while travelling and visiting dog parks is important for socialization and exercise, this can increase the risk of exposure to worms
      2. Eats raw foods, such as meat
      3. Eats grass or digs in the backyard

    3 Understand the risk of worms (cont..)

  • These are some of the most common worms your dog may encounter:
    1. Heartworm – spread from dog to dog via mosquito bite and may go unnoticed in early stages, but causes difficulty breathing, coughing, fatigue, heart failure and death
    2. Tapeworm – can cause gastrointestinal illness in the pet and can be spread to people
    3. Roundworm – dogs can pick up these worms while playing outdoors and they can cause vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal blockage and even spread to people, especially children, playing in the dirt where animals have previously defecated

    Humans of any age can also be affected by worms transmitted through their puppy, so it’s important for the whole family that your puppy stays healthy.

    4 Don’t forget to protect your puppy against heartworm disease

    Heartworm disease is one of the most common risks for dogs of any age. Heartworms can reach lengths of nearly 12 inches and live in the major blood vessels of the lungs.6 Dogs also won't test positive until at least 6 months ater infection.6 By then, your puppy probably won’t be so little, and those worms will continue to grow and can even cause sudden death.

    Watch for these signs and have your dog tested every year for heartworms by your veterinarian. Keep your dog on monthly heartworm prevention.

    • Dry cough
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Weight loss
    • Lethargy

    4 Don’t forget to protect your puppy against heartworm disease

    If left untreated, heartworms can also cause very serious and life-threatening issues with the heart, lungs, kidneys and bloodflow.

    You can avoid this altogether if you start your puppy’s heartworm protection early – and treat monthly. Your puppy will thank you for it.

    5 Develop a protection strategy against other types of worms

    6 Build a relationship with your veterinarian

    This might seem like a lot of information, but with the help of first year puppy wellness visits and annual wellness checks with your vet, you can maintain a strategy.

    Your vet will have the best, and most accurate, information when it comes to your dog’s health.

    While online research can provide some insight, it’s only with the help of a qualified vet that you can find definitive results and necessary treatment for your own dog.

    Be sure to schedule annual visits for your dog, or even bi-annual, and never hesitate to set up an appointment if you have questions or your puppy is exhibiting unusual signs.

    7 Protection Is Your Best Friend (Besides your new puppy, of course)

    Educating yourself is the first step in controlling ticks and fleas and preventing and heartworm disease. Year round protection is another big factor, as the threat doesn’t simply disappear in cold weather.

    Your vet will always be happy to speak to you about the health of your pet, and they’re your best resource in ensuring that your puppy grows up healthy and strong; whether it be your puppy’s vaccinations, treatments or other preventative care.

    If you stay on top of that, then your puppy will be much healthier and happier.

    More facts about ticks, fleas and worms

    Discover more important things you should know about ticks, fleas and worms and review some key points from this flipbook.

    • Fleas
    • Ticks
    • Worms

    Fleas can be in your own backyard

    Your puppy can pick up fleas just about anywhere, including the dog kennel, the dog park and your backyard. Fleas often live on opossums, raccoons, skunks and other wild animals. Rabbits and roaming domestic cats can also carry fleas. When these animals pass through your yard, flea eggs drop off and develop into adults that seek your puppy out7.

    Fleas hold their ground

    Once a flea lands on your puppy, it plans to stay there. Fleas don’t search for new hosts once they have one.7 Usually, if one jumps onto your puppy,it’s coming from a contaminated environment, not direct contact with another animal.

    Fleas can be difficult to spot

    In mild infestations, you may not see fleas on your puppy. You may find small black pellets of “flea dirt” on their fur, but that might be it. Numbers can increase rapidly though, since female fleas can lay up to 50 eggs per day and 2,000 during her lifetime. In moderate and severe infestations, you may at least see some adult fleas crawling on their skin.7 By the time you see fleas, the environment has likely already been contaminated. Fleas can continue to emerge from previously laid eggs for several months.

    Fleas use your pet to spread infections

    Fleas are more than just a nuisance. They can cause tapeworm infection, bartonellosis (cat scratch fever) and other diseases and conditions that can affect both your puppy and you.7


    Fleas can be right under your nose yet unseen


    • No environment is completely safe
    • Fleas aren’t always easy to see
    • Fleas spread infections

    Ticks spread diseases

    Ticks can spread many diseases such as Lyme disease, babesiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Some of these are debilitating or even deadly to your pet – and you.8

    Ticks work hard

    Ticks find hosts through a process called questing.8,9 They climb up tall vegetation, wave their front legs back and forth and when animals walk by, they grab hold, latch on and feed.9

    Ticks hold on

    Ticks secrete a glue-like substance to firmly secure their mouthparts to your pet’s skin.3,11 To remove a tick, wear gloves and use tweezers to grasp it close to their skin. Extract it using steady rearward pressure.8 Don’t twist, jerk or crush a tick. If you do, you may leave its mouth parts in your pet’s skin, which increases the risk of infection and disease.8

    Ticks can live indoors

    Rhipicephalus sanguineus (more commonly known as the brown dog tick) is the most widespread tick in the world.12 You’ll find it wherever dogs are found. It’s also the only species adapted to live and reproduce indoors.9


    Ticks are dangerous for you and your pet


    • Ticks spread diseases
    • There is a very specific way to remove a tick
    • Some ticks can live indoors

    Worms are everywhere

    Worm eggs and larvae exist in nature, in the soil or in other animals and insects. Your dog can be exposed to them by being outside anywhere from your garden to a public park. Your pet can consume worm eggs, larvae or an intermediate host, such as a flea or a mouse. Some worm larvae, like hookworms, can even penetrate your pet's skin to cause an infection.

    Environmental changes are increasing risk

    Due to mild winters, the population of parasites and their hosts is increasing.13 Plus, pets are more likely to be exposed to parasites due to increased reservoirs.14

    Your pet may not show signs

    Your dog may look healthy on the outside even if worms are growing on the inside: you may not see the signs until the infection is severe.

    Some worms may pass to people

    Some worms can pass from dogs to people through contact or through the environment. Deworming regularly is recommended to help minimize risk.15


    Being anywhere outside can expose your pet


    • Risks are increasing
    • Your pet may not show signs
    • Some worms may pass to people

    The Flea Lifecycle

    The length of a flea’s life cycle emphasizes just how important constant protection is. Eggs are deposited on a host and fall into the environment in a few hours. They become maggot-like larvae that develop in cool, shady areas. They then form whitish pupae (a cocooned form) and stay in this state for 8 days to 30 weeks depending on conditions. They then emerge as adults and begin feeding immediately if on a host.9


    Flea egg
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    Flea larvae
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    Flea pupae
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    Egg production begins 20 to 24 hours after feeding. A female flea can produce 40 to 50 eggs per day and can survive for 2-3 months.3

    The Worm Lifecycle

    Monthly protection helps break the 30-day lifecycle of worms. Your pet can consume worm eggs, larvae or an intermediate host, such as a flea, mouse, slug or snail. The worms then develop inside your pet and produce eggs. Some of those eggs are then passed into your pet’s feces. Some worm larvae, like hookworms, can even penetrate your pet's skin to cause an infection.16


    Dog icon
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    Intermediate Host

    Slug host


    1 University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center. Dermacentor variabilis (American Dog tick) [Internet]. 2013. Available at: https://tickencounter.org/tick_identification /dog_tick#top. Accessed Feb 2019

    2 Starkey LA, Little SE. Canine Tick-borne Diseases. Today Vet Pract. 2015:July/August;55-60.

    3 CAPC. Fleas [Internet]. 2017. Available at: https://capcvet.org/guidelines/fleas/ Accessed Feb 2019

    4 CAPC. Parasite Prevalence Maps Lyme Disease [Internet]. 2018. Available at: http://www.petsandparasites.org/parasite-prevalence-maps#2018/ all/lyme-disease/dog/united-states. Accessed Feb 2019

    5 Becker M. VetStreet [Internet]. 2015. Available at: http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/why-flea-and- tick-prevention-doesnt-stop-when-summer-is-over. Accessed Feb 2019

    6 American Heartworm Society. 2018. Current Guidelines of the Prevention, Diagnosis, and Management of Heartworm Infection in dogs. [Internet]. Available at: https://www.heartwormsociety.org/ veterinary-resources/american-heartworm-society-guidelines. Accessed Feb 2019

    7 Dryden, M. et al. 2005 guidelines: flea control for dogs and cats. Advanstar Veterinary Healthcare Communications.

    8 Companion Animal Parasite Council. “Ticks for dog.” https://www.capcvet.org/guidelines/ticks/ . Accessed December 27, 2017.

    9 Payne, P. and Dryden, MW. 2004. “Biology and control of ticks infesting dogs and cats in North America.” Vet. Ther. 5.2:1-16.

    10 Suppan, J. et al. 2017. “Tick attachment cement: reviewing the mysteries of a biological skin plug system.” Biol. Rev. Camb. Philos. Soc. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/ 10.1111/brv.12384/epdf Accessed November 10, 2017.

    11 Francischetti, I. et al. 2009. “The role of saliva in tick feeding.” Front. Biosci. 14:2051-2088.

    12 Dantas-Torres F. 2010. “Biology and ecology of the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus.” Parasites & Vectors. 3:26-36.

    13 Wright I. 2017. Veterinary Nurse 8;298-306.

    14 Helm J et al. In Practice. 2017. 39;298-315.

    15 Companion Animal Parasite Council. Ascarid. Available at: https://capcvet.org/guidelines/ascarid. Accessed Feb 21, 2019.

    16 ESCCAP Guideline 01: Worm control in cats and dogs. Third edition