How to Protect Your Pets from Fleas, Ticks and Other Pests
What’s In This Guide
Fleas and ticks aren’t just unpleasant. They can be dangerous to your health and your pets’ health as well.
Fleas can carry a large array of pathogens that include tapeworms, typhus and cat scratch disease (CSD). Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other illnesses. Failing to combat these pests can put your pet’s life at risk, but an integrated approach to pest management can save the two- and four-legged members of your family from discomfort and illness.
Diseases Transmitted by Fleas
Excessive scratching can leave bald patches in animals’ fur. These patches usually go away over time, but they can sometimes be permanent.
Other flea-borne pathogens take root when infected fleas are swallowed. This happens often when pets consume the fleas that they find on their bodies. While it is rare for adults to consume these insects, small children may wind up ingesting them. In this way, fleas infected with tapeworms and other parasites may transmit them to your pets or small children. Cat Scratch Disease, or Bartonellosis, is passed to grooming cats when they ingest flea feces left in their fur. This disease, which can be transmitted to humans, causes fever, swollen lymph glands, and body aches.
Diseases Transmitted by Ticks
Other Pests That Can Harm Your Pets
In some parts of the United States, bloodsucking insects known as kissing bugs can transmit Chagas disease (a parasitic infection that can lead to debilitating chronic problems) to pets.
Finally, in all parts of the U.S., the common mosquito can transmit one of the most destructive canine diseases—heartworm. If you’re a dog owner, be sure to keep your dog on medication to prevent this killer parasite.
How to Keep Fleas Away from Your Home
Don’t encourage wild animals to enter or linger in your yard. While it can be entertaining to watch wild animals eat food you leave out for them, it can be harmful to the health of your pets. Fleas will hitch rides on animals like feral cats, raccoons or possums, enter your yard, and then lie in wait for prowling or playing cats and dogs.
If your animals go outside, give them a quick brushing when they come back in. This can dislodge any pests in their fur. By stopping them at the door, you can avoid populations developing inside; once a population takes hold, it can take weeks or months to get them out.
At dog parks, your pet may encounter other dogs who may be carrying fleas. Rather than preventing your dog from frolicking with others, make sure that your pet’s flea repellent medications are up to date and effective. This, plus checking him or her for fleas when you come home, can keep your animals and your home flea-free.
What If You Already Have Fleas in the House?
You may wish to treat the home with insecticides after the initial cleaning. By thoroughly cleaning the carpets first, you can make sure that most fleas have been already removed and have no place to hide.
Fleas already on your pet can be removed through brushing. Flea brushes have small, closely spaced teeth that capture the insects when the brush goes by them. Remove the fleas from the brush either under running water or by cleaning the brush in a bowl of soapy water.
Keeping Ticks Away
Ticks hide in bushy areas, then hitch a ride on your clothing or on your pet’s fur. They will then burrow into your pet’s flesh and embed themselves, making them difficult to remove.
Trimming brush and bushes back in your yard can dissuade ticks from living there. When you and your pet are out, prevent them from running into any wooded areas where ticks may hide.
Do a quick tick check when you come back in. Wear long sleeves and pants to keep any ticks away from you. Change when you come home to prevent ticks from transferring from your clothes to your or your pet’s skin.
How to Find and Remove Ticks on Your Cat or Dog
The insects themselves may be brown, black, or tan with eight small legs. While some ticks are about the size of a Tic Tac, others are even smaller, and may be no bigger than the head of a pin.
If you encounter a tick already on your animal, safely remove it. Some people recommend painting the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly; these tend to be ineffective measures. Instead, grasp the tick with tweezers as close to your pet’s skin as you can. Pull it out with a straight, slow and steady motion. Twisting or jerking can result in the tick’s head breaking off under your pet’s skin. This can lead to infection if it is not properly removed.
You should also use antiseptic to clean the area around the bite, then wash your hands and the tools used to remove the tick. This can prevent infection of the wound and transmission of any pathogens.
Topical Treatments for Your Pets
Flea and tick collars only repel insects from the head and neck, but topical medications like Frontline and Advantage can be applied to your pets once a month to repel ticks and fleas over their entire bodies. Make sure that you observe instructions for application; these medications require different doses by weight. You should also abstain from using these on puppies and kittens under six weeks old.
Flea or tick repellent shampoo is another option. These products can help remove fleas from animals and repel them in the future. The active ingredients in these shampoos only last for around two weeks, however, making this a labor-intensive option for flea and tick control.
Modern flea and tick medications make it easier than ever to keep these pests away from your pets. Use them in combination with strategies for making your home and yard less attractive to fleas, ticks and other pests. Through careful attention and consistent care, you can keep these pests away from your animals and keep every member of your family healthy and comfortable.
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