It’s that time of year again. Flea and tick season is upon us, and nothing annoys a dog more than those pesky pests. Responsible dog owners know that their canine companion’s warm body and soft fur is a personal paradise for these insects. But once they move in — and begin feeding on your pet’s blood — they can cause a wide range of health problems, from skin infections to Lyme disease.
Your best bet for effective and safe solutions is to ask your veterinarian, who is the most up-to-date on flea and tick preventatives, treatments, and information. American Kennel Club’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein offers 10 tips for flea and tick prevention and treatment.
- Prevention is best managed with one of the many veterinary-approved flea and tick products available on the market. Speak to your veterinarian to find the best, most appropriate flea and tick prevention product for your dog. There are flea and tick topical treatments, collars, and shampoos; each made to address specific needs. And in extreme conditions, you can try one of these sun and bug blocker overalls, which provide protection from biting insects and harmful UV rays.
- Read the label. Never, ever apply flea medication made for cats to dogs unless the label says it is made for cats and dogs.
- Regularly inspect your dogs (even if they are taking a tick preventative) and yourself for ticks after walks through the woods or grassy settings. On dogs, look especially on the feet (and between toes), under the legs, on lips, around eyes and ears (and inside ears), near the anus, and under the tail. Be sure to look under your dog’s collar, too. Feel for bumps all over your dog, and part the fur to check out any bumps you do feel.
- The quicker you remove a tick, the less likely your dog will contract a secondary illness related to tick bites. Learn the proper method of tick removal. Invest in a pair of fine tweezers or a tick removal tool used for this purpose. It’s best to wear gloves and remove the tick by the head. If you are unable to remove the tick, call your veterinarian.
- Invest in an outdoor dog bed. Your dog can be comfortable and safe when spending time outside by relaxing off the ground.
- Keep grass in your yard mowed as short as possible. Refrain from walking into grassy patches in endemic tick areas if you can. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggests removing leaf litter, tall grasses, and brush from your yard.
- For fleas, look for them on areas of your dog where the coat is sparse or thin. Think belly, inner sides of the hind limbs, and armpits. Fleas are tiny and copper-colored, and they move quickly on your dog’s skin. You may also be able to see “flea dirt” or feces, tiny dark spots that turn red from digested blood when put on a wet paper towel.
- If you own multiple dogs, treat them all at the same time. This will help prevent cross infestation. Keeping your dog away from other dogs during flea season can also reduce the risk of getting fleas.
- While dogs are being treated, the surrounding environment must be treated at the same time. Wash all bedding in laundry soap and hot water and heat dry or get rid of it, and completely vacuum the sofas and carpets. When you’re done, make sure to empty the vacuum containers outside.
- If flea infestation is extensive in your home, a “fogger” can be used. When you use a flea and tick fogger, the room must be evacuated of all pets and people for 12-to-24 hours (read label directions carefully to determine safety, or ask your veterinarian). Be sure to choose a fogger that kills adult fleas and flea larvae.
- If infestation is bad enough, or in parts of the country where fleas are on the ground, professional exterminators may be needed. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that!