Fleas and Ticks
As most dog owners discover, along with the advantages of the many warm months comes the disadvantage of the dreaded flea and tick season. But this problem can be kept under control (with some help from you). Although controllable, fleas and ticks should always be taken seriously because both can carry diseases that can affect both animals and people. For example, ticks can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease, and fleas can carry tapeworm. To prevent the spread of these and other diseases, you should keep a close eye on your dog and take care of any problems before they escalate.
Fleas are similar to ticks in that they are usually seen in the summer and they suck the blood of their host. They can spread diseases and cause skin irritations in your dog. Fleas are not just found on dogs, but also in your house, yard and your dog's bedding. In fact, they spend more time off your dog laying eggs than on him. Because of this, flea treatment and prevention will not work unless you treat both your dog and his environment.
The key to successful flea control is to keep both your dog and your house clean. The whole house should be vacuumed regularly and any bedding your dog uses should be washed. Depending on the extent of the flea infestation, your house and yard may need spraying and sometimes an exterminator is necessary.
Ticks are most commonly found in grassy or wooded areas, so one way to control them is to cut back any tall grass around your house. Throughout tick season you should check your dog often, especially under his legs and around his ears. If you do find a tick, remove it as soon as possible to prevent the spread of disease. Lyme disease is one of the biggest fears associated with ticks, and cases have been reported throughout the United States. When removing ticks be careful that none of their blood gets directly on your skin because Lyme and other diseases could be spread this way. There is a vaccine for Lyme disease, so you may want to ask your vet if he or she recommends this for your dog.
The best way to remove a tick from your dog is to grab it with tweezers where the mouth enters the skin and with a firm pull try to get the whole tick at once. After removing the tick you may want to clean the area with an antibiotic. Do not try to remove a tick by burning it off, this is ineffective and may hurt your dog. Applying a flea dip or alcohol before pulling the tick off can sometimes help by killing the tick first.
There are a huge number of products on the market for preventing and controlling fleas and ticks. Usually the same treatments you use for fleas can be used for ticks because they tend to be sensitive to the same chemicals. Following is a list of the various treatment and prevention methods that are available:
A new method of flea control is a pill, which is essentially birth control for fleas! The pills are typically given once a month and work by preventing eggs from hatching. This disrupts the flea's life cycle. You may need to use other products along with these pills if there are already fleas in your home, but eventually the pills are all you need. These pills are only available through prescription, so ask your vet about this new method. A positive aspect of the pills is that no potentially harmful insecticides are used.
These are insecticides that can be used indoors or outdoors and that treat the environment. Before using sprays make sure they will only be toxic to fleas. Carefully follow the directions printed in the spray can.
Foggers (or bombs):
These are similar to sprays but are only for indoor use. A fogger is designed for a single use and is discarded after the insecticide has been expelled. Usually, a fogger is placed in the center of the room to be fumigated. A special nozzle is depressed and begins to release a "fog" of insecticide. Any humans and animals should immediately leave the area. Following the times specified on the package, the room should be ventilated as instructed on the package.
Both foggers and sprays will probably need to be used more than once to fully control the insect infestation.
Whenever using sprays and foggers, remember to carefully read and follow the package instructions before using the product.
Flea and Tick Collars
Collars contain insecticides that kill fleas and ticks. Be sure to read the package for the minimum recommended age of the dog and observe your dog for any skin irritations caused by the collar. The collar should be worn loose around the neck. These collars will probably only prevent ticks in the head and neck area, and in the case of both fleas and ticks you will often need to use other products in addition to collars. They also need to be replaced often in order to remain effective. Another use for collars is to cut them up and put them in your vacuum cleaner bag.
There are special shampoos that are formulated to kill fleas. Regular dog shampoos may remove fleas, but they won't kill them. Flea shampoo can be used as often as once a week during flea season. You may also want to use a flea comb between baths. Combs are not sufficient as the only method for flea control and need to be used on a daily basis.
Dips are liquid insecticides that you immerse your dog in. They can be applied after a bath. When applying dip remember that they should not be rinsed off, but should be allowed to air dry. These products will kill fleas and ticks when they are already present and will help prevent further infestation.
Flea and Tick Powders and Sprays
These are not as strong as dips and should be applied frequently. Ask your vet how often he or she recommends that you use it. When applying powders and sprays be careful not to get any in your dog's eyes, ears or mouth. Powders and sprays can also be used on your dog before going into a tick-infested area as a preventive measure.
Flea and Tick Oils
Flea and tick oils like FRONTLINE
work very well. When you apply these oils to your pet, the active
ingredient is stored in the natural oils of his/her skin and coat. This provides your pet
with protection against fleas and ticks for a month -- even after a whole lot of baths and
shampoos (or as many as your pet will sit still for!). In fact, your pet can romp in the
rain, splash in the surf and get soaked to his/her happy heart's content without losing
any protection against fleas and ticks.