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The Creepy Crawlies: Fleas & Ticks

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Fleas prefer certain hosts, but they’re not picky. The dog flea (that would be ctenocephalicles canis) is just as happy to chow down on your ankles if that’s what is available.

Fleas can cause an allergic reaction called allergy dermatitis in some dogs and humans. Flea allergy dermatitis in dogs is characterized by severe itching—signs include constant scratching, chewing, licking, and whining. As few as one or two flea bites a week can cause a reaction, and symptoms will often persist for a while even after some form of flea control has been used.

Deer ticks are the type of tick most likely to carry Lyme disease. In its early phase, Lyme disease symptoms in people include fever, headache, fatigue, and a telltale circular rash that looks like a bull’s eye. In general, the risk of a person developing Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick is only one to three percent, however, if you’ve removed an attached tick from yourself, inform your doctor.

In dogs, Lyme disease symptoms include recurrent lameness of the limbs due to inflammation of the joints. Some dogs may develop “shifting-leg lameness,” a condition characterized by lameness in one leg, with a return to normal function before another leg is affected. Some dogs may also develop kidney problems. If left untreated, total kidney failure sets in and the dog begins to exhibit such signs as vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, fluid buildup in the abdomen, and fluid buildup in the tissues, especially the legs and under the skin.

Lyme disease, a bacterial infection, can be cured with antibiotics in almost all cases, even in later stages. Always keep ticks removed from yourself or your dogs for testing by your doctor or vet.

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