Avoiding a Flea or Tick Infestation
For dog and cat parents, just the thought of a flea or tick infestation can cause skin to start crawling—not to mention unnecessary and excessive worry. That’s likely because while an occasional flea or tick sighting on your pet can seem like no big deal, a full-fledged infestation can cause extreme upset in your home as well as discomfort for your pet. Luckily, with a little knowledge and dedication to pest prevention, an infestation—and the potential health concerns that go along with it—can be avoided.
Here’s what you need to know.
When is flea and tick season?
The unfortunate answer is that fleas and ticks can be found year-round, although where you live does make a difference. Bayer has a map that breaks out when fleas and ticks are most active in each state (in the warmer months in most cases).
Preventing flea and tick infestation
While flea and tick populations may change with the seasons, to fully prevent an infestation, you need to take precautions year-round. This includes treating your pets as well as your home and yard.
- Keep your pet flea and tick-free: It’s essential to keep your pet properly protected from fleas and ticks. This includes selecting an ongoing preventive treatment plan with your veterinarian—there are plenty of options to pick from including collars, sprays, spot-on treatments, oral treatments and shampoos—and performing regular checks for any fleas or ticks that may have made their way onto your pet. During peak pest season, use a flea comb to carefully check your pet’s coat for fleas, and use your fingers to feel all over their body for ticks. Be aware of any signs that your pet has been infested, as well, like extra scratching, hair loss or tiny specks on their coat. Ongoing treatments also help to keep your pet safe from many life threatening diseases that can be transmitted by fleas and ticks such as Lyme Disease and Ehrlichiosis.
- Protect your home: Fleas that have found their way onto your pet or your clothes—or on the clothes or other items of visitors—may take up residence inside your home. In fact, if you only treat your pet for fleas and ticks but don’t do anything to your home, you could miss more than 90 percent of the developing flea population. Regularly wash all pet bedding, vacuum carpets and treat your home with an indoor specific spray, powder or fogger (never use a product that’s recommended for outdoor use inside). Pay special attention to your pet’s favorite spots, where flea eggs and larvae could be concentrated. If you’re worried about full coverage, consider working with a professional cleaner who specializes in flea and tick infestations.
- Canvas your outdoor area: Since fleas and ticks naturally live outdoors, you’ll need to take preventive measures there, too. Keep your yard free of leaves and overgrowth as much as possible, since both your pet, and the pests that want a ride, love these areas. When treating the outside, also focus on using an outdoor yard spray in areas where your pet hangs out—spray according to package directions—and try to always keep your pet in a controlled environment when outside, to the extent that that is possible. The more you can have your pet avoid wandering and exploring in unknown brushy areas, the better.
Harm fleas and ticks can cause
Itching, hair loss and irritation are all common for pets that have a flea or tick bite. However, there are much more serious concerns that can arise, including:
- Fleas can trigger allergies. Some pets react more strongly to fleas because they are allergic to the fleas’ saliva. This allergy—known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis—causes additional irritation and itching and results in small scabs and redness. While your veterinarian can prescribe options for treating the symptoms of Flea Allergy Dermatitis, it’s even better to take a proactive role in controlling fleas before they wreak havoc on your pet’s sensitive skin.
- Fleas can cause anemia. While the average pet with fleas is not likely to develop flea bite anemia, this complication is a definite cause for concern in pets with large flea infestations. The severe loss of blood that accompanies such an extensive infestation results in anemia, especially in puppies and kittens.
- Fleas can carry tapeworms. As unpleasant as it is to consider, it’s possible for your pet to contract tapeworms via ingested fleas that carry tapeworm larva.
- Ticks can infect your pet and you with different diseases. Ticks can spread a variety of diseases that can infect both pets and humans. Different kinds of ticks that live in different regions spread different diseases. In the United States, common tick-borne diseases that can be contracted include Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Identifying fleas and ticks
Part of proper flea and tick treatment is being able to properly identify these parasites. The entire flea and tick cycle includes multiple phases:
- Flea life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupae and adult fleas
- Tick life cycle: eggs, larvae, nymph and adult ticks
Depending on the stage they are in, fleas and ticks can be hard to spot. Fleas may be more visible on your pet’s underside, where there is less fur. A flea comb may also be useful. While ticks can be found anywhere, they prefer to hide out on the ears, face, legs, belly and between the toes. Engorged ticks can usually be spotted visually or by passing your hand over your pet’s body.
Proper and continuous plans for prevention is the best way to keep your pet (and you) from having to deal with fleas and ticks. A little help from your veterinarian, a groomer and the flea and tick prevention options at Petco can help you keep the problem at bay.