Fleas, Ticks and Creepy Crawlies

Fleas and ticks can carry and either directly or indirectly transmit several potential illnesses to humans, as well as cause disease in your dog. External parasites may be less prevalent outside during certain times of the year, however, they often survive in the house during the winter months. creating an uninterrupted life cycle.

The Facts About Fleas

Fleas are small, parasitic insects that feed by sucking blood from mammals and birds. While immature fleas do not bite, adult fleas usually feed several times a day.

Why should I be concerned about fleas?

Fleas are not just an annoyance. They can cause discomfort for you and your pet. Some people and animals get an allergic reaction to flea saliva, which creates a rash.

In animals, fleas can cause:

1) Hair loss from frequent scratching and biting
2) Anemia (not enough red blood cells in the blood) in extreme cases

Fleas can transmit:

1) Parasites like tapeworms
2) Diseases like typhus

A flea bite in a human creates a small, hard, red and itchy spot. The spot:

1) Is slightly raised and swollen
2) Has 1 puncture point in the middle

Flea bites often appear in clusters or lines. They can be itchy and inflamed for up to several weeks.

How do I check my pet for fleas?

Adult fleas prefer to stay on pets. Their eggs, larvae (immature fleas) and pupae can be found anywhere that the pet has traveled or in contact human has traveled within the home, especially where the pets sleep or lie down. The myth about no carpets is all wrong fleas can live anywhere even in the cracks where tile grout is or in the cracks of laminate floors.
During peak flea season and after contact with other animals, you should:

1) Check your pet regularly for fleas
2) Black particles the size of ground pepper on your pet’s skin near the tail
3) Inspect areas that your pets often go to for signs of fleas:

  • Sleeping areas
  • Dog houses
  • Kennels

How can I prevent fleas in the home? Port Alberni is a Flea Mecca

  • Treat, Treat, Treat – there are many safe products now made for your pet. As a topical solution or as an oral tablet. Some also include tick coverage and worm products. ASK your vet. We encourage you not to use products purchased from a pet store or large box store as these are pure pesticides and do not work well. Beware of so called natural products as well, none have been proven to work in studies and some can be dangerous. (i.e. Mint has caused the death of several small dogs)
  • Inspecting your pet regularly and treating all the pet in your home and outside your home monthly or every 3 months (depending out the medication of your choice). We recommend all year around treatment in Port Alberni.
  • If there are strays or neighbor animals unfortunately you can not control their actions but they can keep fleas in your area.
  • If you have tenants with pets require monthly flea control.

What do I do if my pet has fleas?

If your pet has fleas, you will need to treat the pet and areas used by your pet. You should use both physical and chemical control methods.

To get rid of fleas on your pet, focus on the neck or tail, where fleas tend to gather.

A flea comb will remove most:

  • fleas
  • flea feces
  • dried blood

Kill the fleas by putting them in hot, soapy water.

To get rid of fleas in your home:

  • Wash pet and family bedding in hot, soapy water every 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Lift blankets by all 4 corners to avoid scattering the eggs and larvae. If an infestation is severe, replace old pet bedding.
  • Vacuum carpets and cushioned furniture daily.
  • Clean around cracks and crevices on floors and along baseboards.
  • Steam-clean carpets.

You will need to treat areas frequented by pets:

  • baseboards near sleeping quarters
  • points of entry (for example, around door and window frames)
  • small areas in the yard where pets rest or play (like dog houses)
  • It will take 3 months usually to break the cycle but in severe infestations it may take as long as 6 months (this usually requires treatment of all pets in and out of the house and treatment with sprays in the house and outside where pets may rest a lot)
  • In general, FLEAS are not deadly but they are extremely frustrating and difficult to deal with.


Nothing says “ick” like ticks and the diseases they transmit to pets and people. Here’s what you need to stay in-the-know about the latest tick issues to protect your pets from these pesky parasites.

Ticks crawl up

Ticks don’t jump, fly or drop from trees onto you or your pet’s head and back. It you find one attached there, it most likely latched onto a foot or leg and crawled up over your entire body. Ticks are “programmed” to try and attach around your head or ears. On their normal hosts, ticks usually crawl up; they want to blood feed around the head, neck and ears of their host, where the skin is thinner and hosts have more trouble grooming.

Ticks carry disease-causing microbes

Tick-transmitted infections are more common these days than in the past decades. With explosive increases in deer populations, extending even into semi-urban areas in the eastern and western U.S., the trend is for increasing abundance and geographic spread of deer ticks and Lone Star ticks; and scientists are finding an ever-increasing list of disease-causing microbes transmitted by these ticks: Lyme disease bacteria, Babesia protozoa, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and other rickttsia, even encephalitis-causing viruses, and possibly Bartonella bacteria. Back in the day, tick bites were more of an annoyance but now a bite is much more likely to make you sick. Here on Vancouver Island as you see from the tick map disease transmission is rare but they are moving upward towards us and if your pet travels at all there is a risk. We have seen tick borne disease associated with traveling dogs, cats and clients.

For most tick-born diseases, you have at least 24 hours to find and remove a feeding tick before it transmits an infection. This timeline is uncertain, there is more to learn.

Ticks attach to your dog by inserting their mouth parts into your dog’s skin. Many ticks also produce a sticky, glue-like substance that helps them to remain attached. After attaching to your dog, ticks begin feeding on your dog’s blood. The places where ticks attach can become red and irritated. Although rare, ticks can consume enough of your dog’s blood to cause a deficiency called anemia.

How do I prevent my dog from getting ticks?

It is very difficult to prevent your dog’s exposure to ticks. Ticks can attach to your dog when he or she goes with you on walks, hikes, or during any outdoor activities.

The best way to prevent ticks from attaching to your dog is by the regular use of tick control products. Your veterinarian can advise you about the best product for your dog and your situation. Your veterinarian is also aware of diseases that are common in your area and can pose a risk to your dog.

Can humans be harmed by ticks?

Ticks can attach to and feed on humans. The skin where ticks attach to humans can become red and irritated. Ticks that transmit diseases to your dog can also transmit many of the same diseases to people. It is important to realize that people do not get these diseases from their dogs. Both people and dogs get the diseases from ticks they come into contact with outdoors. Diseases, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which have already been described in dogs, can also be very serious in humans.

If you have questions about human diseases that are transmitted by ticks and how you can protect yourself, you should consult a doctor.

Thank you to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC).

Internal Parasites (Pet Health Network)

Parasites are a common and important cause of disease in dogs. Although most people know about external parasites like fleas and ticks, many do not realize that intestinal parasites can also cause significant health problems.

What are intestinal parasites?

Intestinal parasites are parasites that live inside the host animal’s gastrointestinal tract. Examples include worms, like roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and protozoa, such as, giardia and coccidia.

How do dogs/cats get intestinal parasites?

Dogs can contract intestinal parasites via different routes. Parasites are usually transmitted when an animal inadvertently ingests parasite eggs or spores in contaminated soil, water, feces or food. In the case of tapeworms, they can also be transmitted when a dog/cat eats an infected flea or has contact with mice, birds etc. Puppies, on the other hand, usually get intestinal parasites from their mother. Transmission can occur in utero or from nursing. Most parasites are killed by medications in the intestine which only account for part of the life cycle of parasites. Therefore, we need to worm for life as the other stages reach maturity. When we worm regularly as a puppy (once monthly for 6 months), we reduce the overall worm burden for the pet’s life.

Why should you care?

Intestinal parasites can cause malnutrition, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and anemia. Besides making our pets sick, many of these parasites can affect people. According to kidshealth.org, “20% of dogs/cats pass toxocara eggs in their stool.” Even if you or your child do not touch the feces the eggs can be stuck to the fur. Toxocara can cause damage to the eyes and untreated can lead to vision loss, especially in children, the elderly and the immunosuppressed.

What are the symptoms of intestinal parasites?

While external parasites, like fleas and ticks, are easy to spot, intestinal parasites are rarely seen because they live inside your pet’s intestinal tract and pass microscopic eggs or spores in your pet’s stool that are too small to be seen by the naked eye. Tapeworms are one exception–they shed segments that resemble sesame seeds or grains of rice and are typically seen in your pet’s stool or around their rectum. Roundworms are another exception since they may occasionally be seen in your pet’s vomit or stool. Nevertheless, intestinal parasites are difficult to spot and you should not rely on seeing them before taking your dog to the veterinarian. Only a small percentage will shed worms and you can identify them in the stool. If you do there is generally a large burden of worms present.

Besides being hard to detect, many dogs/cats infected with intestinal parasites are asymptomatic. Even symptomatic dogs may go undetected because their symptoms can be nonspecific. The most common signs and symptoms of intestinal parasites are:

  • Scooting
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • A distended abdomen
  • Weight loss
  • Occasionally coughing

Since dogs infected with intestinal parasites can exhibit no symptoms or subtle symptoms that can be easily overlooked; the best way to ensure that your dog is parasite-free is to take him to the veterinarian at least once a year for check-ups. Your veterinarian will examine your dog and they can perform fecal testing (need 3 negative fecal exams to be considered worm free) or they may treat with a broad spectrum wormer as a more cost-effective method.

How can you prevent intestinal parasites?

While the thought that your pet may have intestinal parasites may give you the heebie-jeebies, intestinal parasites are treatable and even easier to prevent. In fact, many people are already protecting their pets and family from intestinal parasites and don’t even know about it. A fair number of flea control medications contain some worming products. If your dog is not already on monthly parasite preventatives, take him to your veterinarian to discuss how you can protect your pets and family from intestinal parasites.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.