How does my dog get fleas and ticks?

Fleas very actively come inside your home looking for your dog. Whether you have an indoor dog or one that goes outside, we have lots of animals like possums and feral cats that come right outside our back door and drop them off, so they happily come inside. The same is true with ticks. Ticks are also carried by regular wildlife outside.

Dr. Kathrine White
Highland Park Animal Hospital

Can fleas and ticks spread from my dog to my home and family?

Depending on which species, fleas and ticks can spread to your family. If fleas are hungry, they will bite humans, and ticks will attach to humans. Therefore, it is very important that we keep them out of our homes because once they're in, they're much harder to get rid of.

Can my dog get fleas and ticks if they are primarily an indoor dog?

Absolutely. Our indoor dogs and even cats often end up with fleas because we have so many species that actively come into our homes.

What health problems can fleas and ticks cause in my dog?

Several tick-borne diseases can make our dogs really sick, from infectious arthritis to even severe anemia and death. Fleas carry quite a bit of babesia and some scarier things. The big thing we want to ensure is we just want to prevent them before they get active anemia or something else. That's our big stuff, but even on top of that, they can be itchy and scratchy and end up with a skin infection.

How effective are flea and tick medications?

Oral flea and tick medications are incredibly effective. Almost all of our modern products will kill fleas within about an hour and a half. Every flea on their body, 99%, will be dead within 24 hours. The same is true with ticks, and the biggest reason we care about the effectiveness of tick medications is if we kill them before they've been attached, we can prevent tick-borne diseases.

What is the difference between over-the-counter and prescription flea and tick medications?

The biggest difference between over-the-counter and prescription medication is that over-the-counter medication only includes topical products. The biggest concern is that when we're using a topical product that isn't a brand name, no studies say whether it's effective or not. When we're using an oral product, the studies were done by the FDA to prove their efficacy and safety. That's just not true with some of the over-the-counter topical products. The caveat to that is Frontline, Advantage, and Seresto collar, which all did studies on their products to show they're effective.

What different types of flea and tick preventative treatments are there?

There are oral medications that last three months or one month, topical liquids that you put on your pet, and a single studied collar called a Seresto collar that absorbs through the skin and into the bloodstream. Most of the other stuff you see over the counter are the sprays and powder collars, which are not very effective. They'll just kill what's on their body at that very second. They won't prevent any more infections.

What will my veterinarian recommend for flea and tick treatment?

Here in our hospital, we typically recommend oral prevention because of the fact that you don't have to worry about washing it off or how your pet's going to react to it. We typically use Bravecto or Credelio in this clinic, which is a monthly preventative.

How can I identify fleas on my dog?

Most people can't. Fleas are really fast, and they're good at running and hiding. On top of that, our pets are talented at biting them back. So you are not likely to find them. Typically, we see hair loss near their tail and a lot of itchiness, which is our first clue. You might also see what looks like dirt on your pet, which is flea feces. I'll be honest, you probably won't see them unless they get a really bad infestation, so I hope you don't find them.

How can I identify ticks on my dog?

Ticks tend to hang out in places that dogs can't get to quickly because otherwise, your dog would bite them back. So they tend to hide in places that are not easy to find, such as mouth folds, ear folds, in between toes, and way up under armpits. So again, you probably will not see them. What's more common is that we find your dog has a tick-borne disease. Unfortunately, we don't find that tick.

What should I do if I see fleas or ticks on the dog?

If you see fleas and ticks on your pet, you should immediately take them to your veterinarian so that we can get them on appropriate prevention. If we think that there's a concern for tick exposure, we may recommend tick testing to look for diseases.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (214) 833-9821, or you can email us at But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media,