17 Pests Like Ticks And Fleas That Pose A Threat To Dogs

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Dogs, our faithful companions, bring joy and love into our homes but also come with their own set of challenges. One of the challenges of pet ownership is watching out for our pets’ curiosity to ensure their safety. There are several pests that can harm our pets’ health.

Understanding these risks is crucial for every dog owner, as these pests can cause discomfort, spread diseases, and, in some cases, lead to serious health complications. From the common flea to the more insidious tick, being informed is the first step in protecting your beloved pet.

In this article, we’ll explore pests that every dog owner should be aware of. We also will look into how these pests threaten your dog’s health and provide you with the knowledge you need to prevent these unwelcome guests. 

Fleas: The Itchy Menace

Vet examining dog for fleas or ticks.
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Fleas are notorious for their ability to cause severe itching and discomfort in dogs. These tiny parasites feed on your dog’s blood, leading to skin irritation, hair loss, and, in severe cases, anemia. Regular use of flea prevention treatments is essential to keep these pests at bay.

According to the American Kennel Club, effective flea control requires understanding the flea life cycle and specific treatment approaches for each stage. If an infestation occurs, prescription preventatives, flea shampoos, or fast-acting chemical treatments may be necessary. Treating the environment is also critical, including washing bedding, vacuuming, and using environmental control products. It may take several months to eradicate an infestation, but consulting with a veterinarian ensures the health and comfort of your dog and household.

Ticks: Tiny but Dangerous

Tick on dog.
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Ticks are more than just a nuisance; they are carriers of diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These arachnids attach to your dog’s skin, feeding on blood and potentially transmitting infections. 

Checking your dog for ticks after outdoor activities is crucial for early detection and removal. My suggestion for tick checking is to use a headlamp to illuminate the area of your dog while combing through its fur. I highly recommend getting a tick removing specific tool if your dog is going to spend some time beyond the well groomed yard. However, if your yard has long grass or you live in an area prone to ticks, this would be a great thing to have handy.

Heart Worms: A Silent Threat

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The Companion Animal Parasite Council reported back in 2019 that nearly “Over 100,000 dogs in the USA are diagnosed with heart worm infection annually.” Since then, the number has steadily grown.

Heart worms, transmitted by mosquitoes, are a life-threatening issue for dogs. These parasites live in the heart and lungs and cause damage over time. Preventative medications are the best defense against this insidious pest.

Ear Mites: Tiny Troublemakers

Dog getting its ears checked for mites.
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Ear mites are small parasites that can cause intense itching and inflammation in your dog’s ears, leading to infections. Prompt treatment is necessary to alleviate discomfort and prevent secondary infections.

Sarcoptic Mange Mites: The Scourge of Skin

Dog with mange spot.
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Sarcoptic mange, caused by mites, leads to severe itching, hair loss, and skin infections. It’s highly contagious and requires immediate veterinary attention to prevent spreading and ensure recovery. 

Demodectic Mange Mites: A Test of Immunity

Dog with mange.
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Unlike sarcoptic mange, demodectic mange mites are common in most dogs but only cause issues in those with weakened immune systems, leading to hair loss and skin infections. Treatment focuses on boosting overall health and addressing the mites.

Tapeworms: Unseen Internal Invaders

Dog getting treated with shot to help deworm.
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Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that can cause weight loss and nutritional deficiencies in dogs. They are typically contracted through fleas, making flea control vital in preventing tapeworm infections. If you notice something odd, that looks like a spaghetti noodle or piece of rice, in your dogs stool (and assuming they haven’t eaten that lately), it might be worth collecting a sample or at least taking a picture. Show it to your vet and see if they think further investigation is necessary. 

Tip: Keep your hands and shoes clean when dealing with stool samples. My wife, who works with dogs regularly, has a specific pair of shoes she only wares at work and keeps out of our house. 

Hookworms: The Blood-Thirsty Worms

Vet inspecting dogs health.
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These parasites latch onto your dog’s intestinal walls, feeding on blood and leading to anemia and gastrointestinal issues. Prompt deworming and sanitation are key to controlling hookworm infections. As with any of the mentioned parasites, dogs may exhibit a lack of energy, appetite, or overall comfort. While we don’t immediately jump to the issue being a parasite, if your dog got a hold of something odd on a recent outing, it’s worth having them checked out sooner rather then waiting.

Roundworms: The Common Culprit

vet inspecting a labradoodle.
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Roundworms are prevalent in dogs, especially puppies, causing bloating, weight loss, and coat issues. Regular deworming from a young age is essential to manage roundworm infestations.

Whipworms: The Hidden Hazard

Golden retriever in the animal hospital. Veterinarians preparing the dog for surgery.

Whipworms reside in the colon, leading to bloody diarrhea and weight loss. Due to their resilience in the environment, strict hygiene and regular deworming are crucial for prevention.

Botflies: The Larval Parasites

Dog with botfly under skin.
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The botfly larvae can cause lumps under the skin of dogs, leading to infections and abscesses. Prompt veterinary removal of the larvae is necessary to prevent complications.

Mosquitoes: The Pesky Vectors

Vet checking dogs skin.
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The warmer months invite us to spend extra time outside with our furball friends. But this can lead to greater exposure to mosquitoes. And not only are these pests a nuisance to us humans but they certainly can affect your dog. As mentioned, beyond their irritating bites, mosquitoes can transmit heart worms to dogs. Using mosquito repellents and maintaining a clean environment can reduce the risk of heart worm disease.

Ants: Small but Mighty

dog rolling through grass.
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Dogs often love to roll around in the yard, not realizing that they might be rolling over an ant hill or an infested area. It’s important to keep a close eye on your dog to prevent any unexpected encounters. If you see your dog gnawing at their skin it might warrant a closer look. This could indicate something is bothersome like fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and even ants. Although rare, I have found dogs with multiple ants on them after some time at the beach.

Certain ant species can inflict painful bites and stings, leading to allergic reactions in some dogs. Keeping your dog away from ant-infested areas and managing ant populations around your home can help protect your pet.

Spiders: The Venomous Threat

Black widow spider crawling on web.
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While most dogs will ignore or not even notice the small pests such as spiders, there are times when “Fido” is sniffing around the garage or shed that might warrant a correction. I don’t let Harvey into our shed for this reason and the fact that there are tools and such around. The point here is to not rule out this potential hazard. 

Keeping your yard and home areas clean can help reduce any eight-legged infestations. At the same time, make sure your dog is playing with the right toys and not other nature related habitants. Most spider bites are harmless to dogs, bites from species like the black widow or brown recluse can be dangerous, requiring immediate veterinary care to address potential toxicity.

Bees and Wasps: The Stinging Menace

Corgi in flower field looking for bee.
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Dogs tend to view bees as nothing more than objects to catch in their mouth. Although bees are quite fast, sometimes the dog manages to catch them. Getting stung by bees or wasps can cause discomfort, inflammation, and more severe reactions in allergic dogs.

To prevent such painful encounters, I suggest monitoring your dog when they are outside and take note if chasing bees seems to be a habit. From there you can take steps to try and correct the action while relocating whatever it is that is attracting the bees. At the end of the day though, it might come down to just keeping a close eye on your dog.

Snakes: The Stealthy Danger

dog caught snake and biting.
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Snakes, particularly venomous ones, pose a significant risk to dogs, especially those who are curious or protective. A snake bite can lead to severe swelling, pain, and potentially life-threatening reactions. Unfortunately dogs can see snakes as nothing more then a new play toy. Being vigilant in snake-prone areas and training your dog to avoid snakes are crucial preventive measures.

I try to stop Harvey from digging around dead logs or rocks, especially if we are on a hike. Living on the side of a mountain though, and with age, he seemed to wise up a bit and would even keep his distance when we caught site of a snake (a regular occurrence where we lived).

Large Predators: The Unseen Threat

Bear and dog standoff.
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While not pests per se, if you live or visit the right areas, dogs can inadvertently become targets for larger predators such as mountain lions, bears, bobcats, and even aggressive raccoons, especially in rural or wilderness areas. 

We lived near the Smokey Mountain National Forest for several years and encountered black bears frequently. While Harvey’s reaction was to protect his pack, putting himself between me and bear, I was thankful to have him on a leash during those moments and redirect our hikes on a different direction.

These encounters can lead to serious injuries or worse. Keeping dogs on a leash, supervising outdoor time, and securing your yard can help minimize the risk of such dangerous encounters. 

Be Vigilant With Your Dog And Their Surroundings

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Armed with knowledge and preventive strategies, dog owners can significantly mitigate the threats posed by these various pests and predators. Regular veterinary care, appropriate preventive treatments, and a vigilant eye can help ensure the safety and well-being of our beloved canine companions in the face of these challenges.

Understanding these pests and taking proactive measures can significantly reduce the risks they pose to your dog. Regular veterinary check-ups, preventative treatments, and maintaining a clean environment are key strategies in safeguarding your dog’s health against these pests.

Corey Turner
Corey Turner, owner of FurBallFun.com, draws on a lifelong love for dogs and extensive pet ownership to offer a unique perspective in the pet industry. With a successful background in project management, he excels in critical analysis, precise attention to detail, and quality assurance. This expertise allows him to effectively differentiate true value from marketing hype in the pet sector. Corey’s contributions have been featured in various publications including Rockery Press Guide Books and WealthofGeeks.com. During his free time, he enjoys disc golfing, rock climbing, and bonding with his cherished FurBall friend, Harvey.