Summertime means that you and your pets are able to spend more time in the great outdoors. It also means that fleas and ticks can, potentially, spend more time in your homes. Yuck! Fleas are mostly a nuisance… just talk to any homeowner who’s had the unlucky privilege of ridding their homes of these tricky pests. It can really be a nightmarish cycle of ridding your home, then your dog or cat, then your home, then your dog or cat… you get the picture. Often flea infestations require professional help on both ends of the spectrum: a costly visit from a professional exterminator and repeated trips to your veterinarian or groomer. Ticks are another story altogether. They can cause your pet (and anyone else living in your home) serious health problems. It’s important to know what to look for and what to do if your pet brings fleas or ticks home.
Let’s tackle fleas first. Most pets experience itching from fleas, but some sensitive animals can have more severe reactions such as hair loss, inflammation and secondary skin infections. Flea saliva can also cause anemia, dermatitis, and facilitate the transfer of tapeworms. Because of fleas’ ability to jump great heights, they are easily able to hitchhike into homes while hidden in the fur of family pets. Once inside, fleas quickly multiply and infest bedding, furniture and clothing.
Because fleas can quickly become a big problem, prevention is the best way for pet owners to avoid a major headache. A myriad of preventative products exist and you and your vet should discuss the best option for your family of fur babies. Whether you choose a topical medication or an oral preventative will depend on your pet’s size, skin sensitivity and exposure to the outdoors. The only option not available to loving pet owners is to do nothing! In addition to treating your pet with flea preventatives, you should bathe your pets frequently, wash human and pet bedding often, clean their collars and plush toys and vacuum carpets, floors and furniture regularly.
Now ticks… they are nasty, dangerous creatures that can carry a plethora of diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis and “tick paralysis.” Again, prevention is key! Talk to your veterinarian about products that repel ticks and kill eggs. Many products tackle flea, ticks and other pests in an all-in-one application. Even knowing that you’ve armed your pets with the best products on the market, it is still crucially important that you inspect your pets regularly for ticks.
Upon returning indoors, give your cats and dogs a thorough once-over. Rub against the nap of their fur, paying close attention to soft areas around their noses, ears, and bellies. If you find a tick on your pet, remove it immediately with tweezers. Take caution to grab the tick on or behind its mouthpiece… otherwise you can leave part of the tick on your pet and that can lead to infection.
After removal, flush the tick and wash your hands, then your pet’s tick bite with soap and water. Check the bite regularly to make sure that it is healing nicely… if it is red, warm to the touch or oozy, you need to give your vet a call.
Keeping your lawn clipped short will help keep ticks away from your property and home. They prefer lush areas of high grass and weeds, so proper lawn maintenance will decrease the chance of ticks setting up shop on your property. If you have a contract with an extermination company, talk to them about lawn tick treatments, especially those that focus on the edges of your lawn where it borders natural areas.
Here’s to you and your furry friends and best wishes for a safe, pest-free summer!