We love our dogs but we don’t love the little critters that might be sharing them. As spring arrives our dogs tend to be outside more often, and in many different locations. They tend to pick up a wider variety of parasites just by, well, being dogs.

Not only are parasites unappealing but they can also cause health problems for our pets and their people. This is why it’s important to try and keep our pets free from parasites.

As the weather gets warmer, parasite populations begin to increase in number. In Ontario the summer tends to be our typical flea season. Dog fleas are tiny brown insects that live on your pets and feed on their blood. To make matters worse, they may even choose to snack on you – disgusting, I know. Not only are fleas an obvious nuisance, they can also pose threats to your pet’s health.

Ticks are more active in the spring and fall from March-June and September-November. However, with milder winters they can be active as early as February and as late as December, basically anytime its around 4 degrees Celsius. Tick populations are on the rise in both numbers and geographic distribution meaning the risk of tick-borne diseases is increasing.  Ticks prefer damp humid environments and especially wooded or grassy areas.

So, what can you do to deal with all these annoying creepy crawlies?

Check your dog regularly, especially if they’ve been out on wooded trails or in tall grass. Ticks can be found in your dog’s fur before they’ve attached themselves or may feel like a small bump on the skin once they’ve bitten the dog. The best method for checking for ticks is carefully combing through your dogs’ fur and feeling the skin for bumps. Begin at the snout of your dog and, using your fingers like a comb, run your hands over the head and around the neck. Pay special attention to the ears and around the collar. Check those hard-to-reach areas around the groin, armpits and under the tail.

If you do happen across a tick on your dog’s skin, resist the urge to immediately pull it out. Use tweezers or a tick removal tool and pull it out slow and gradually. Place the tick in rubbing alcohol to kill it.

Prevention is also key.

Speak with your vet about the best option for your dog regarding flea and tick prevention. There are many oral and topical tick and flea preventatives that kill tick and fleas quickly. Your local vet can direct you to the best one available for your pet.