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Are You Ready for Flea and Tick Season?
The spring and summer months are peak flea and tick season in many parts of the U.S. Although the insects thrive in tall grass and wooded areas, you may also find them in your backyard. Luckily, reducing your pet's risk of a flea- or tick-borne illness can be as simple as taking a few of these preventive steps.
Treat Your Backyard
Use flea and tick spray on grass, shrubs, and plants to kill fleas and ticks. Products that promise to kill both adult fleas, ticks, eggs, and larvae offer the best protection. Keep your pets out of the yard until the spray dries completely. Most products only keep your yard flea and tick-free for about a month and require regular re-applications.
It's also important to make your yard less hospitable to fleas and ticks. Begin by thatching your lawn to remove the layer of dead grass, roots and stems that form between the soil and the grass. Thatch provides the ideal breeding ground for fleas.
Do you have piles of leaves or wood on your property? You may have unknowingly created the perfect flea habitat. Clearing debris and brush may prevent fleas and ticks from invading your yard.
Cutting your grass too high or too low can be a factor in flea prevention. Fleas hide in tall grass, then jump on to the nearest warm body that passes by, whether that's you or your pet.
Unfortunately, too-short grass also poses a problem. When grass is short, the spiders and ants that provide natural flea control will move out. How short is too short? Scotts says that it's best to keep your grass at least two inches high.
Protect Your Pet
Topical and oral flea and tick medication, sprays, shampoos, and dips offer additional protection for pets. The products kill adult fleas and ticks and stop the development of larvae and eggs. Check with your pet's veterinarian before using one of these products for the first time, particularly if your pet is very young, old, or has a chronic health condition.
Keep Critters Out of Your Yard
Raccoons, opossums, deer, and your neighbor's dogs or cats can bring fleas to your property. If your yard isn't already fenced, consider building a solid fence to prevent flea-ridden animals from infesting your yard. Check fence slats regularly for holes or signs of rot.
Check Your Pet for Ticks and Fleas Regularly
Perform a tick check every time your pet returns inside after spending time outdoors. Start the check by running your hands over your dog or cat's head and body.
As you perform the tick check, take a closer look at any unusual bumps. They may actually be ticks engorged with your pet's blood. It can take up 24 hours or longer for attached ticks to transmit diseases to your pet. Removing ticks as soon as possible is essential for your furry friend's health. Don't forget to check your pet's paws and ears too.
Remove ticks with tweezers, then kill them by placing them in a jar filled with alcohol. You may want to keep the sealed jar for a few weeks. If your dog or cat develops a rash or other possible Lyme disease symptoms in the coming weeks, your pet's veterinarian may want to test the ticks.
Pull the tick straight out of your pet's body without twisting or crushing it. Be sure to wear rubber or latex gloves during the procedure.
If your dog or cat has fleas, you may notice frequent scratching, licking, or biting of the skin, bald or hot spots, deposits that look like dirt in your pet's fur, white flea eggs, or red skin. Unnaturally pale gums or lips may be a sign of anemia, which can occur if your pet has a severe flea infestation. Anemia requires immediate veterinary treatment to protect your pet's health.
Your rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, or gerbil may never spend any time outdoors, but it can still have a flea problem. Small animals often develop fleas if other animals are infested or you unwittingly bring fleas inside on your clothing.
Flea and tick bites can cause Lyme disease, skin infections, and other health problems. Call us if you're concerned about your pet's symptoms or need recommendations for effective flea and tick treatments for your home and yard.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Protecting Pets from Fleas and Ticks
ASPCA: Fleas and Ticks
AVMA: Safe Use of Flea and Tick Preventive Products
Scotts: How to Treat Fleas in the Yard