Fleas and ticks are problems for pet parents across the United States. These pests spread diseases and cause uncomfortable itching in your dogs and cats. These pests are found all over the country. However, the Midwest and heavily forested areas are especially bad. The climate promotes the growth of tall grasses and heavily wooded areas which fleas and ticks really thrive in.
The worst time for fleas and ticks is in the summer months. However, you should be checking your pet during other parts of the year, too. While the pests thrive in the summer, they are still common in the spring, fall, and winter. Fleas and ticks love moist, warm, and shaded areas and breed quickly in them. A flea is a small, bloodsucking parasite that live on the exterior of a host and spread diseases. Ticks are similar but they don’t typically lay their eggs and spread as quickly as a flea infestation would.
How to Prevent Fleas and Ticks
The most important part of prevention is to talk to your vet about what medication they recommend. It could be a flea and tick collar, a medicine taken orally, or a topical treatment. By using a medicated preventative, you’re greatly reducing the chances that your pet will get either fleas or ticks. Make sure you check the date on your products if they’ve been sitting in the cabinet for a while. Expired medications aren’t nearly as potent and they lose effectiveness. When giving medication, it’s also critical to pay attention to what type of animal it’s for. Some medications for dogs are actually toxic to cats. Check with your vet if you have both types of pets in your house so that you don’t accidentally harm one of them.
If your cat or dog is outside a lot, as many are, you’ll want to check your pets often for fleas and ticks. Dogs and cats that go into wooded areas after rainfall are especially needing of a check. Rainfall brings out fleas and ticks due to the moisture and wooded areas are often where the pests thrive. They’ll quickly see the opportunity for a host and cling on. When your pet returns from his outdoor adventures, give him a quick brush and check around for bugs. Depending on what kind of coat your pet has, they could be easy or hard to spot. Light colors and short hair are the easiest to see, and dark, long coats are more difficult. Common places that ticks will lodge are the armpits and ears.
What Happens When You Find a Tick
Let’s say that you find a tick. What do you do next? You need to remove it from your pet making sure to get the head and body. Use fine-point tweezers and get as close to the skin as you can. Then clamp onto the tick and slowly pull straight upward as steady as you can. This helps keep the head attached to the body. If you have reason to believe the head is still lodged in your dog or cat’s skin, call your vet and ask for assistance.
Getting rid of fleas is a little more complicated. It usually takes 3 or 4 months to completely get rid of a flea infestation, so preventative medicine is critical to keep that from happening. You will need to wash all of you and your dog’s bedding in hot soapy water. You’ll want to vacuum all of the floors in your house and then clean the vacuum thoroughly. Next, either apply flea control yourself or call an exterminator. You’ll want to treat your yard as well. Last, get your pet on a preventative and keep him on it.
For those of you with yards, you should keep your grass short and manicured during the warmer months. Usually ticks come out late March to early October or whenever the first frost is. By maintaining a short lawn, you’re giving these pests one less place to thrive and keeping your pet safe. It’s best to mow weekly so that the grass doesn’t become a cool, shady place. Ticks don’t like hot and dry environments nearly as much. You’ll also want to remove any brush, leaves, or clippings from your yard. Piles of this attract ticks and other pests to come and live.
Preventing fleas and ticks for your pets is a fairly simple process. Maintain a manicured lawn, check your pets when they come in from outside, regularly groom them, and put them on a preventative medication. The reality is that this environment is one where fleas and ticks thrive, so you need to stay diligent. But, with a few simple steps you will be able to keep your pet safe and healthy!
Columbia Pike Animal Hospital
& Emergency Center
4205 Evergreen Ln.
Annandale, VA 22003