Flea and Tick Basics for Dog Groomers

As a dog groomer, you have the opportunity to play an important role in identifying and preventing flea and tick problems in dogs. Good groomers can identify signs of flea infestation, find and remove ticks safely and correctly apply topical preventative medications. By working to combat flea and tick problems, you can significantly improve the health and comfort of each dog you groom.

Identifying Fleas

During a grooming session, you have a good chance of finding evidence of fleas that the owner has missed. While combing the dog, you might see small reddish brown fleas jumping in the hair. Be alert for these, especially when combing the hair between the legs and the body and the hair at the base of the tail. Even if you do not find actual fleas, you may still find evidence of infestation. As you comb the dog, place any debris you find on a paper towel. If the debris has the appearance of dirt, it could be flea feces. You should test it by dampening the towel. If the debris turns red, it is flea feces. If you find feces, you can safely assume that the dog has fleas even if you cannot find adults.

In some cases, you may find no fleas or feces on a dog with a flea problem. This is because dogs with flea allergies and flea sensitivities spend a lot of time grooming themselves, so they often remove fleas before they can be detected. For this reason, you should keep an eye out for missing or damaged hair, especially along the spine, and for bumps and scabs. While there are other possible causes for these issues, flea allergy is the most likely. If you find any of these problems, inform the dog’s owner, and encourage him to seek veterinary attention for the animal.

Finding and Removing Ticks

You should also be on the lookout for ticks while grooming. In dogs, the ears, head, feet and neck are the most common locations for ticks, but the parasites can attach anywhere on the body. If you do find a tick, make sure to protect yourself by wearing latex or nitrile gloves before attempting removal. Begin the removal process by applying rubbing alcohol to the tick and the surrounding skin. You can then grasp the tick with a hemostat or tweezers. Using steady pressure, pull straight up to remove it. Never squeeze a tick or use jerking motions. These actions could cause the tick to disgorge its stomach contents into the wound on the dog’s skin, making disease transmission more likely. Once you have removed the tick, clean the wound with copious amounts of soap and water to help prevent infection.

After removing the tick, you may want to save it for the owner. Do this by sealing the parasite in a plastic bag or jar. Saving the tick is useful, because it gives the owner evidence to show to the dog’s veterinarian if the animal becomes ill. Additionally, make sure to show the owner the site where you removed the tick so that he can watch the wound for signs of infection.

Preventative Medications

In addition to identifying flea and tick problems, groomers can help prevent them by educating owners about flea and tick preventative medications. Unfortunately, many owners apply topical preventatives incorrectly. By demonstrating the correct procedure for the application of topical flea products, you can help your clients and their dogs to avoid problems.

When demonstrating proper technique or applying products yourself, make sure to follow all directions carefully, and note differences between products. For example, when using Revolution, you need to wait two hours after application before bathing the dog. By contrast, when applying Frontline Plus to dogs, you need to wait 48 hours after application before bathing the animals. Both products, however, can be applied after a bath as long as the pet is completely dry.

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