Pestering bugs can be a nightmare for us, but they're equally awful for our dogs. Bugs are creepy and crawly, and they bite! To make matters worse, some bugs can actually pose a health risk to your dog, while others just cause unnecessary stress. Whether you're trying to get rid of fleas, or you spot bugs on a dog and you need help identifying insects that bite dogs, we have you covered.
The first step to getting rid of bugs on your dog is to identify them. This can be difficult, so it's best to bring your dog in for a visit with the vet as soon as you spot any bug bites. Watch your pup for signs they're irritated, especially if they are chewing excessively. When examining your pet, look for:
- Small black dots found in the fur
- Small red bumps around these dots
- Irritated patches of skin
- Insects crawling on or near your dog's body
Fleas are small, brown, wingless insects that live on the host's body and feed on their blood. The flea is difficult to see with the naked eye but can be identified by its dark color and very thin body shape. Fleas are common parasites on dogs and can cause skin irritation and hair loss. They also transmit disease to humans.
If you suspect your dog has fleas, look for black specks around their ears or neck area. This may be dried blood from the flea's saliva irritating those areas while they were feeding on your dog's blood. If you think you've found fleas on your pets, then take a close look at them - if there appear to be some sort of black specks around their ears or neck area, then they may have fleas.
Fortunately, getting rid of fleas on your dog is generally simple. To get rid of fleas:
- Apply flea prevention: This can be natural or pharmaceutical. Consult your vet for advice.
- Bathe your dog: Give your dog a bath with shampoo specifically designed for dogs (but only a few days after applying flea treatment). There are various flea shampoos available (but check that it's OK to use these with other flea preventatives).
- Keep their environment clean: Wash your dog's blankets and linens in your home. If you have carpet, vacuum and shampoo the carpet, being sure to place any bags containing your vacuum dust and water outside and away from the home.
Mites are tiny bugs that live on the skin of dogs. They can be found in the fur, on the skin, and even inside the dog's ears. The most common type of mites for dogs are ear mites, which you can't see with the naked eye. If you're looking for them, search for:
- Abnormal odor in your dog's ears
- Brown specks in the ears
- Redness or inflammation of the ear
They feed on a dog's blood, which makes them similar to lice and bedbugs. The way they spread is similar, as well. In order to keep them off your dog, you need to treat all of their living areas, as well as your dog's body. For example, if you find mites in your dog's ear canal or on their ear flap, be sure to treat those areas with insecticides that kill mites specifically. Ask your veterinarian for the medications they recommend.
Ticks are a problem for dogs because they can spread disease and cause discomfort. The first step to removing a tick is identifying it, as different kinds of ticks have different symptoms. These two are the most common:
- American Dog Tick: This tick is the most common type in North America. It can be identified by its brown coloration and "lateral plate" (the area between its head and abdomen). These ticks are usually found on dogs' ears, legs, bellies, or paws; when removed from a dog's skin with tweezers or forceps rather than pulled off with your fingers, as this could result in broken legs.
- Deer Tick: These insects can be recognized by their dark brown coloration with white markings around their heads. They're often found on dogs' ears or necks but may also appear under their armpits or behind the back legs. You should avoid using petroleum jelly-based products on these bites because they could cause severe burns if left untreated. Instead, if your dog has been bitten by one of these parasites, try using cortisone cream before putting antibiotic ointment on each bite wound. This will help make sure that any open wounds don't get infected later on because of improper care. Make sure the removal process was done correctly, without any mistakes, such as leaving behind any tick parts inside your dog's skin.
To prevent ticks from getting on your dog, there are some steps that you can take, including:
- Use medication: Ask your veterinarian for flea and tick prevention.
- Avoid tall grass: Ticks love tall grass and brushy areas, so if you walk your dog in these areas, it's likely that you will find ticks on them. You should avoid walking your dog through these areas as much as possible.
- Perform regular inspections: Check your dog after walks or trips outdoors. Use a dog-safe tick repellent if necessary.
- Walk your dog on-leash: Keep dogs leashed when they're outside so they don't wander over to an area that could have ticks lurking nearby.
Check your dog for ticks at least once a day, especially during peak tick season. Look for ticks under your dog's legs, in between their toes, around their ears and neck, and anywhere else ticks might hide. Ticks love to hide in folds of skin and in thick fur. Inspecting your dog after they've been outside is one of the best ways to find ticks before they have bitten your pet.
Lice are small insects that live on a dog's skin. They can be found on the head, ears, and body. Lice are not dangerous to dogs, but they can be a nuisance to humans, as they like to spend time in human hair, where they lay their eggs. Most lice feed off dead skin cells and don't cause much damage to your dog, but if there is a large infestation, it may cause an allergic reaction or irritation.
The first step to avoiding lice on dogs is to make sure your dog doesn't come into contact with any other dogs or people who might have them. If your dog goes to daycare or has friends over, make sure that everyone washes their hands before interacting with them. It's also important to keep an eye out for signs of lice so that you can treat them early on if needed.
If you notice any crawling bugs on your pet's skin, take your dog to the vet right away so that they can be treated professionally. While some people may be tempted to use over-the-counter products like we do when we get lice ourselves, these products aren't always safe for pets and could cause serious side effects if used improperly.
Bed bugs can attack dogs at night while they sleep. Bed bug bites are not the same as flea bites. Small, red bumps may appear on your dog's skin after bed bugs have bitten them. The bites will typically be found on the stomach, chest, legs, and neck area of your dog. The most common place for bedbugs to hide is in the folds of your dog's skin, so if you see a rash on your dog's skin, it could be a sign they have bedbugs. Bedbugs can also hide in clothing, so keep an eye out for those as well.
The most common sign of a bed bug infestation is small brownish-red stains on sheets or mattresses. Bed bugs leave behind fecal matter that looks like dark spots or streaks on fabrics, sheets, and other surfaces. If you spot any signs of bedbug bites on your dog, take them to the vet immediately.
Getting rid of bed bugs can be incredibly difficult. You may want to hire a professional exterminator if the bites are from bed bugs. You can also take the following steps:
- Wash all your clothes in hot water and dry them on high heat. This will kill any bedbugs that may be living in your clothes.
- Vacuum the entire area where the bedbugs are located, including mattresses and box springs. Pay special attention to cracks and crevices where bedbugs can hide during the day.
- Consider purchasing a steam cleaner to kill any bedbugs you find in your vacuum cleaner bag after vacuuming up an infested mattress or box spring.
- Place all items that cannot be washed into plastic bags and place them in the freezer for at least five days.
- Get rid of clutter around your apartment or house. Clutter helps hide bed bug nests.
- Remove drawers from nightstands and dressers, apply cooking oil or spray with alcohol or mineral oil to kill any bed bugs hiding inside them, let stand for 10 minutes, then wipe up the residual oil with paper towels or let it air dry before returning drawers to their places.
Keep Your Dog Bug-free
Bugs can be a nuisance, but they don't have to ruin your dog's life. With the right tools and preparation, you'll be able to handle most bugs with ease. If you're unsure what is crawling on your dog, snap a photograph and do some research. Alternatively, you can show the photo to your veterinarian and ask what you can do to keep your dog bug-free.