Flea and Tick Control For Your Dog & Cat
Cats and dogs can be warm, wonderful companions. However, those companions will often most likely bring other parasitic creatures into your lives that are not at all welcome. Fleas and ticks, aside from the often intense irritable itching from their bites, can also lead to severe allergies, and can infect both your pets and you and your family with some very serious diseases.
Understanding The Pest Problem
For both cats and dogs in the U.S. the cat flea (Ctenocephalides Felis) is the most common flea and the one with which your pets are likely to be infested. The cat flea will feed on many animals, including humans and once an infestation is established it can be difficult to eradicate. Your pets are likely to become infested through close proximity to other infested animals, infested bedding, furniture, or flooring, and in the case of a very heavily infested property, even the lawns; fleas can cause anemia, skin infections, and can also introduce tapeworms into their host.
Ticks (part of the spider family) can pose a very real threat and are frequently the culprits for infecting their hosts with life threatening illnesses such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Your pet is most likely to pick up a tick as it moves through tall grass. Once a tick has fed it will drop off and look for somewhere for shelter and to establish an infestation. Unless you are vigilant, this could be your home.
Identifying Flea And Tick Infestations
Fleas: According to the University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, fleas account for over "half of all dermatological conditions requiring veterinary assistance." Identifying a problem before it becomes established will save your pets and possibly your family discomfort and maybe save you some money too. Check your cat and dog regularly particularly around the armpits, the base of the tail, and the groin. Also watch for signs of your pet excessively scratching, skin damage, bald patches, black dirt like granules (flea feces) in their fur (a flea comb is useful for this), and a dry or flaky skin condition. If you or your family have been bitten by an insect repeatedly, especially around the ankles, it is likely to be fleas; check the furnishings and the carpets.
Ticks are more commonly a problem for dogs rather than cats, but do not depend on this generality. Check your pets when they come in, especially during spring time when ticks are more active. A tick will appear as a small dot on your pet's skin, and will look almost like a growth if it has been feeding for some time. Remove the tick carefully, but not with your bare hands. Use tweezers (there are special tweezers available for tick removal) or resort to commercial products, such as sprays, dips, shampoos, or powders if your pet is heavily infested. If your pet has a tick or ticks, check your home; favorite places for ticks to take up residence are in the furniture, and behind baseboards and door moldings.
How To Prevent Pet Ticks And Fleas
The best way to control fleas and ticks is not to get them at all, while this is probably unlikely during the lifetime of your pet, there are steps you can take to turn the odds in your favor:
- Be vigilant but work on the premise that your pets will get fleas and/or ticks
- Consult with your vet as to what solutions are most appropriate for your pet, especially if it is old, very young, or pregnant
- Treat your pet or have your vet administer to your pets regularly a reputable, safe commercial product (like Frontline Plus); unless the label says otherwise, never use cat products on dogs or vice versa; always follow the product's directions
- Buy a reputable, safe flea/tick collar for your pet; replace it according to directions
- Wash your pet's bedding and soft toys regularly with hot water
- Regularly vacuum all areas used by your pets and close by frequently; seal and discard the vacuum bag in an outdoor container and/or clean the vacuum thoroughly
- If you acquire used animal bedding, toys or even used bedding and furniture for your family assume it is infested and wash/treat for fleas accordingly
What To Do If You Find Fleas Or Ticks In Your Home
There will probably be occasions when even the best precautions fail and your pets and probably your home too will have a flea or tick infestation. One of the most important things to remember in the case of an infestation is that if your pets spend a lot of time indoors then the overwhelming majority of the fleas and ticks will not be on your pets, they will be in your home. You will need to:
- Clear the floor area
- Take all pet bedding and soft toys and clean or throw it out
- Vacuum, everything. You want to suck up as many of the adults, larvae, and eggs as you can; vacuuming will also raise the nap of the carpet thus making any chemical treatment penetrate further. For ticks, pay particular attention to cracks, crevices, and baseboards. Discard the contents of the vacuum in a sealed bag in an outside container
- Be aware that the use of some products (like thea Bonide Flea & Tick Fogger) will require that you leave your home for several hours
- Treat your pets for fleas and or ticks at the same time as you do your home
- If the infestation is particularly severe you may need to treat your yard area too. Consult with your vet and/or your local exterminator as to your options
When you are going to look for an insecticidal solution to fleas and ticks take expert advice as to what to use; pet sickness problems have occurred with some products during the last few years. And, while there are a host of options available to you it is often the case that no one particular solution will do the job in every case; be prepared to be flexible as to the flea and tick control methods that you choose to deploy.
Contact or come into your local Southern States store to get more information about keeping your pets safe from pests this year!