Don't Let Them Bite: Preventing Fleas & Ticks
Keep Your Pet Safe From Ticks
Spring is finally upon us, which means the days are getting longer, the grass is getting greener, and bugs are going to start making a comeback. Fleas and ticks are parasitic pests that can pose health risks to dogs, cats, and people. Thankfully, there are many effective methods of prevention in the battle against the bugs. Here's a look at some of the ways in which you can keep both your home and your pet parasite-free.
Who's At Risk?
Fleas and ticks thrive in moist, warm climates and are often found in the dense, deciduous forests in the southern and eastern regions of the country. However, thanks to warming climate trends and urban development, tick populations are on the rise and migrating farther north and west. This means more pets - and their owners - are at risk for coming into contact with the creepy crawlies. While fleas can and do bite humans, they are more likely to affect your pet and infest the environment. Ticks, on the other hand, can carry a variety of diseases that can affect both pets and people, including Lyme disease and Bartonellosis. According to the CDC, tick, flea, and mosquito borne diseases have tripled in the past 10 years.
Whether you live in a low or high risk area, every pet faces possible exposure. Keep in mind that traveling with your pet also may increase the risk of exposure. So how do you protect your beloved pet and prevent an infestation in your home? Preventatives!
- Groom the Garden. Insects, including fleas and ticks, dwell in bushy areas where there are lots of hiding places. Keeping your yard trimmed and free of excessive shrubs, bushes, and overgrown areas will help make your home more inhospitable to unwanted pests.
- Flea & Tick Collars. There are chemical-emitting collars that instantly kill parasites the minute they come in contact with your pet. They work by slowly releasing chemicals which are then carried by the pet's natural oils in their coat to the rest of their body, providing full coverage. When used consistently and correctly, they are highly effective and work well for those pet owners who have difficulty remembering to give oral medications on time.
- Topical Applications. There are dozens of topical applications on the market that are highly effective for both preventing and treating any existing infestations. Most only need to be applied once a month and are incredibly easy to administer. Be sure to check the product label for administration directions and check for any warnings, as some products are designed only for canine use and are highly toxic to cats.
- Oral Medications. Oral medications are one of the most common and effective methods of flea and tick prevention. Some medications need only to be given once every three months. Many heartworm preventatives that help to deworm intestinal parasites in dogs also carry a flea and tick inhibitor - the ultimate all-in-one treatment option.
- OTC Products. There are many over the counter products for flea and tick prevention that can be found at your local pet retailers. If your pet has been diagnosed with fleas, there are also a variety of pet shampoos, carpet treatments, and sprays that can help to eliminate these pests from your home. As with any treatment or medication, be sure to consult your local veterinarian for specific recommendations.
- Removing Ticks. If you find a tick on your cat or dog, they may be easily and safely removed with a pair of tweezers. Part the fur around the tick and place your tweezers as close to the your pet's skin as possible. Once your tweezers are clasped around the tick, gently pull. Do not twist or pull too quickly, as this may leave a portion of the tick embedded within your pet's skin. Discard the tick and gently clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol. The bite will likely heal without complications, but monitor the site for any signs of infection, such as hair loss, discharge, or redness.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
When used correctly, flea and tick preventatives and treatments are incredibly safe and beneficial to your pet. Because there are so many options, it is best to discuss products with your pet's veterinarian, or a knowledgeable sales associate, as they will be able to make appropriate recommendations based on your pet's lifestyle, environment, age, size, and breed. Once you've decided on the right product, you and your pet can get back to enjoying the spring - without the bugs.
- Jason Edick