Prepping Your Pet for Flea and Tick Season
Warmer weather will soon be here, and with that, you’ll want to spend more time outdoors with your pet. After being cooped up inside all winter, you and your dog will need some fresh air and some space to roam about. This fresh air and exercise can be good for you and your pup, but there might be some hidden dangers lurking in the great outdoors: fleas and ticks.
Even the most attentive of pet owners can run into problems with fleas and ticks for their pets, but there are steps you can take to prevent and solve any pest problem you might encounter with your dog. Here are some tips for preventing and solving any pet pest problems.
Preventing Pests from Finding Your Pets
First, you’ll want to start with preventing any problem as much as possible. Ensure that your pet is on a flea and tick preventative medication to reduce the likelihood they will run into problems. There are both topical and oral medications you can give your pet, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Topical applications may prevent both fleas and ticks, but can be messy at times while you wait for them to spread across the skin. Oral preventatives are less messy and effective, but often only prevent fleas and not ticks. Consult with your vet to see which medication is right for your pet, and make sure you adhere to the medication plan each month.
Solving a Flea Problem
When it comes to fleas, it won’t take long for you to discover if your cat or dog has tracked them inside. Excessive scratching will probably be the biggest tell of a flea problem, and if your pet has short, light fur, you may be able to see the fleas on their stomachs or legs. If your pet spends time in your bed or on the couch, it’s likely they’ll move to biting you in addition to your pet.
Luckily, while fleas can be an annoying pest, as long as you catch the problem early, it can be a simple one to treat. The best way to get rid of fleas is to drown them, so make sure you give your cat or dog a thorough scrub down to eliminate any fleas that might be on their body. These fleas will try to jump their way to safety, so make sure you scrub, scrub, scrub. If a regular bath won’t work for your pet, there are flea and tick shampoos you can apply.
After your pet is flea-free, next you’ll want to ensure that your home is rid of any fleas that might have taken residence there. Look for a flea or tick spray at your local pet store and spray your house diligently. (Note that these sprays oftentimes have an odor, so you’ll want to ensure you open your windows and air out your home while spraying, or choose a natural spray that doesn’t use harsh chemicals. Go through the house and spray both sides of couch cushions, pillows, mattresses, carpets, rugs, and any other surfaces that you can’t simply wash clean. Also be sure to wash all dog bedding; your sheets and blankets; and any other fabric surface where these pests may have taken up a home. Some people recommend vacuuming carpet and dumping the contents into an outdoor garbage bag to rid the carpet of any hiding pests.
If your pet keeps running into flea problems due to conditions outside your home, be extra vigilant in the dry spring months that you don’t develop a problem again. The rainy season will help drown fleas that live outdoors, but you’ll want to make sure that you keep your home pest-free after spending time conquering your problem.
Taking Care of Ticks
While scratching can be an indicator of a flea problem, ticks can be just as problematic but with fewer warning signs. If you take your pet into a wooded area for long walks, make sure you carefully inspect your pet when you return home. Common places that ticks bury themselves are paw pads, ears, and near the tail base, but they could find a home anywhere. Make sure you check your pet carefully each time they come back inside to prevent a tick problem.
If you do spot a tick on your pet, it’s best to try and remove it as soon as possible to reduce the chance your dog can develop a tick-related disease, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. On a recent episode of Who Let the Dogs Out, veterinarian Karen Halligan provided the following tips to remove a tick:
- When removing a tick, wear gloves and use forceps or tweezers to remove the pest.
- Grab onto the tick where the head is closest to the pet’s body, as close to the skin as possible, and remove it with one swift motion.
- Place the tick into a jar with alcohol and put a lid on it. Make sure the head is still attached and not in your pet’s skin. If you think part of the tick still remains in your pet’s skin, take your pet to the vet for an examination.
- Watch the affected areas for a few days to ensure the skin heals properly. A small welt near the affected site is normal, but if you notice any skin discoloration, take your pet to the vet immediately.