Fleas and ticks are common external parasites that affect many pets. Although they are common, these pests can be dangerous and put your furry friend at serious risk if left untreated. Fleas can carry serious diseases which may be harmful to your pet. Ticks, too, can cause serious effects including dermatitis, allergies, itching, skin infections, loss of heartiness, anemia and Ehrlichia (tick fever).

You can prevent your furry friend from pesky pests by maintaining an appropriate pest-control regimen. Even if your pet does not appear to have fleas or ticks, it is important to treat your pet with a preventative treatment plan that best suits your pet. 

Flea and tick prevention is an important part of responsible pet ownership. Prior to using any flea/tick prevention method, be sure to consult with your veterinarian to determine which method best suits your pet.

Recognizing Signs

Fleas are most prevalent in the summer and early fall. Signs your pet may have fleas include excessive biting, rubbing and scratching, skin irritation caused by flea bites, and noticeable “flea dirt”, small black feces of the flea.

Tick season runs from early spring to midsummer. Most tick-related diseases have one constant symptom: fever. If your animal experiences a fever and has been known to be exposed to ticks, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Treatment Options

Topical/Spot-On Ointment
A topical ointment is applied to the back of your pet’s neck. The applied amount is determined by your pet’s age and weight. Some ointments are waterproof while others are not. Generally, a topical ointment is effective for 30 days. 

Flea collars use a concentrated chemical to repel fleas and ticks. It is important to change your pet’s flea collar every month. Flea and tick collars are not waterproof and should not be used if your pet is a regular swimmer. Flea and tick collars can sometimes smell quite strong and cause some pets irritation. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if a collar is best suited for your pet.

A dip is a concentrated solution that is diluted with water and then applied to your dog with a sponge or is poured over their body. Dips are usually effective for 30 days. In order to be effective, your dog must be totally saturated in the solution, including the head, but be sure to avoid your dog’s eyes and mouth. If you are worried about getting the solution in your dog’s eyes, you can put a drop of mineral oil or ophthalmic ointment in each eye before dipping. Do not rinse your dog after dipping, instead allow him to air dry. Dips work best on clean dogs, so make sure to bathe your dog prior to dipping.

This method should be used with caution. Do not dip a young animal or an animal that is pregnant or nursing. This method is best suited for dogs and should not be used for cats. If a cat needs to be dipped for any parasite, let your veterinarian do it. 

Flea and tick shampoos will kill only the fleas that are already on your pet. It is important to note that the use of flea and tick shampoos will not protect your pet from contracting fleas or ticks in the future. Use caution when applying these shampoos to your pet and make sure to avoid getting it in your pet’s eyes and mouth. 

Powders are dusted over the entire body. Although effective, powders are difficult to apply evenly throughout the entire body and can be quite dusty. Flea and tick powders may also produce harmful side effects. Prior to applying flea and tick powders, be sure to consult with your veterinarian to determine if this method best suits your pet. 

Daily Checks
Checking your pet daily for fleas and ticks is critical in parasite prevention. Fleas are usually found near the neck, shoulders, underarms, stomach, head, and rear areas of your pet. Ticks are commonly found near ear flaps, the neck, shoulders, underarms, toes, head, and rear areas. When removing ticks, use caution and make sure to remove the entire tick and not to leave any part of the tick still attached to your pet’s skin.

Do not apply the same solutions to a cat or kitten as your would a dog. Use products that are specified safe for cats and kittens.

Do not apply these solutions to puppies or kittens under six-weeks of age. 

Make sure to apply only the amount listed on the package. Many of these products contain harsh chemicals that can be harmful to your pet if applied incorrectly. 

Dos and Donts of tick removal:

Use tweezers or a tick removal device.
When removing a tick , do not twist or jerk the tick. Instead, gently pull upward and add pressure until the tick unlatches itself from your pet. 
After removing a tick, clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol, iodine, or soap and water. 
Dispose of the tick by killing it first in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet. 
If you are concerned your pet may have contracted a disease, save the tick in alcohol for testing. 

Do not use your fingers.
Do not crush or squish the tick while it is still attached to your pet’s skin. 
Do not spray insecticide or repellent on the tick while it is still attached to your pet’s skin. This can cause the tick to vomit into your pet and increase the risk of infection.
Do not use a hot match on a tick while it is still attached to your pet.
Do not dispose the tick in a trash can or sink where it can easily crawl out. 

You can learn more about Lyme disease and tick identification by visiting the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email behavior@anticruelty.org.

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