Summer is in full swing and, here in the Midwest, we have had our fill of rain. With all that moisture and now heat our bug life is blooming too.
This means that fleas and ticks are breeding like crazy then looking to hunt down a blood meal from another animal: your pets! It is time to revisit some external parasite control measures that you can take to help make your pets more comfortable and lower risks for diseases carried by these pesky visitors.
Flea and Tick Prevention: Where To Start?
There are loads of products out there to deter and help prevent infestations on your dogs or cats but where should a pet lover start?
My first recommendation is vigilance and consistency. “If you let your guard down then your chances of finding a larger surprise infestation down the road are increased” Even if you do everything right, your pets are still a target for fleas and ticks and it is your job to face this challenge directly to help keep your pet healthy.
If you find a bug on your pet it doesn’t mean you failed, it means that you are looking! If you don’t find one during your check, then good job too! But don’t think that it means you are off the hook because those bugs are just waiting for you to rest easy!
Tips For Checking Your Pets For Fleas and Ticks
When you are hanging out with your furry companion, make it a habit to look down past the surface of their fur to the skin. Do this in several places on their body, especially just forward of where their tail attaches, in the areas right around their ears, in between their toes, the armpits.
If something feels strange when you are petting them then take the time to part the hair and put your eyes on its source. If you find dirt close to their skin, make sure that it is not flea dirt by rubbing it on a moist paper towel and seeing if it turns rust colored.
These all over checks are the best thing to help you keep your friend comfortable and safe as well as your home less of a resting place for parasites.
Another Important Step In Keeping Pets Flea & Tick Free!
The other most important step for a pet lover is to make sure that you have thought through what is the most appropriate parasite control measures for EVERY pet in your household. Even that one that you don’t officially own but seems to have made its way into your life (you know who I am talking about).
Even if your pet does not go outside, it is still possible to find an unexpected infestation. Your vet clinic is the absolute best place to get the latest information on this.
Finding The Right Flea and Tick Product
Finding a product that works with your pet’s unique medical history and the parasites that are specific to your region is one of the trickiest parts of deterring parasites. Many of the products that are the most effective must be bought from a veterinarian directly because there are a number of medical conditions and home situations that will make one product a better fit for your pet compared with another.
Important Questions To Consider When Deciding on a Flea and Tick Product
Some important questions that should be part of the dialog when talking to your vet or vet tech about purchasing a flea and tick preventative are listed below and may influence what your vet recommends for parasite control.
- Can you get your pet to take oral medication?
- Do they have any existing medical conditions (seizures, allergies, stomach or skin sensitivities especially)?
- Are you concerned with fleas, ticks, mosquitoes or all of them? Different products are designed to target different parasites and you many need more than one product each month to cover all likely exposures.
- Have you used ANY other parasite prevention products recently or had any bad experiences with other products?
- What is your pet’s bathing routine? Have they had a bath recently or do they plan to get a bath in the next few days?
- Does your pet travel, even to another home sometimes?
- Have you seen any ticks on your property in the past? Do you take your pet hiking?
- What other pets do you have in the house and are their young children in the house?
- How often are you truly able to give this medication logistically?
- Do you have financial constraints that limit your ability to purchase this product?
- Have you been finding fleas or ticks on this pet or ANY other pet near your house that you know of?
- Have you found a flea on any of your pets in the past even if it was years ago?
- What other medication is your pet taking?
Flea and Tick Product Recommendations From The Vet
I personally really like the oral medications like Nextgaurd and Bravecto for my dogs but they have not fit with every one of my previous pets due to specific medical conditions that we were treating.
My cats have done better with topical medications like Revolution because it is less pleasant to give them pills so I found that it was easier for me to stay consistent.
The cost of quality parasite preventatives can be daunting but I have found it less expensive in the long run than trying to get rid of the problems once they are in your house or on your pet.
No Flea and Tick Product Is Perfect
Even if your pet is on a flea and tick preventative it pays to continue to do checks because unfortunately there are episodes of “breakthrough” with every product. Cats may also tend to have fewer problems with ticks if they are good at grooming themselves but there are occasionally some misses if they are exposed heavily.
Nothing is 100% in life and there could be a number of reasons that your pet has a flea or tick on them even if they are on a preventative. Most flea and tick medications are designed to target only the adult parasites on the animal not all the life stages that may be in the environment.
This does not mean that the product is bad or that the owner is bad for choosing this product, it could mean that there are an overwhelming number of bugs that the pet is exposed to or that this preventative might not be the best fit for that pet.?
A Word Specifically About Fleas
Some additional items that make flea problems especially hard to control include the presence of other life stages in the house, other pets with an infestation that do not show itching and therefore do not get checked as often, not giving the medication on time as directed, bathing the pet before or after treatment to try and get rid of the pests, pets who vomit often or hide medication to eat later, other skin infections that are related to flea bites and need more than just parasite preventative to get under control.
As far as fleas go, use preventative, check for breakthrough and don’t forget to address the eggs that may be in your house. If you have had fleas, do not be shocked if there is a recurrence once you start treatment because getting all the eggs out of the environment is very tricky. Keep your vigilance up for the long haul and don’t try to save money by stretching out the interval you apply preventative.
And About Those Nasty Ticks…
Tick bites tend to carry a few more concerns than just being gross and uncomfortable. Some ticks carry diseases like Ehrlicia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme disease to name a few. They can have repercussions long after the tick has detached if you are unlucky but you will not be able to know right away if your pet has contracted one.
Diagnosing a recent infection can be more complicated than it sounds. Traditionally, I have seen that preventatives are typically less successful at keeping ticks completely away from pets but ticks tend to find animals on preventative much less palatable and are easier to remove.
Even though some of the preventatives are designed to make the tick burden less, owners still should check their pets and carefully remove any ticks as soon as possible to decrease the risk of a tick-borne disease getting transmitted to your furry friend.
So, use preventative and take off those that get through!
Flea and Tick Prevention Is NOT Just a Seasonal Thing
These tips should be followed or at least discussed all year long. We tend to think about them most in the summer when it is warm and wet but I frequently see bigger problems when the weather cools off and the humans do not notice bug life quite as much outside. These parasites stick around and continue their life cycles as we move into fall and winter. Now is the time to start a foundation for future success.
A consistent investment in time and quality products will help keep everyone comfortable well into the future. Your pet will thank you!