Protect Your Pets from Fleas and Ticks
When it’s not flea and tick season, it’s easy to forget what a pain (quite literally) these nasty little insects can be. You may wonder what the big deal is – don’t all cats and dogs get fleas? Yes, they do! But it’s not just a nuisance. Protecting your pet from fleas and ticks can be the difference between the life and death of your pet, and the health and well-being of your pets and family.
Dangers of Infestation
Fleas and ticks are small critters with a big impact, because they have the advantage of numbers – big numbers. Ticks can carry illnesses like Lyme disease, which can affect both humans and animals. Fleas can transmit tapeworms and heartworms through their bites. Left untreated, heartworm can be fatal.
And let’s not forget that fleas can infest your home. If your pets shed, flea eggs can come off on the hair. Clumps of shed animal hair can then become breeding grounds for fleas. And they are hard to get rid of – you often need multiple, professional, and often expensive applications of powerful pesticide to get the infestation under control.
Prevention is the best approach to protecting your pets from fleas and ticks. Here are some of the options.
-Spot-on treatments go between the shoulders or on the back of the neck for cats, and on the back of the neck or down the back of dogs. These can get expensive if you get them from your vet and if you have multiple pets, but there are affordable options. But there are lower-cost, over-the-counter options available these days. Spot-on, topical flea prevention can contain pesticides or you might prefer a more natural spot-on (which is also available). They usually both repel and kill fleas and ticks. They need to be applied on a monthly basis.
-Flea collars can help repel fleas and ticks, but they also need to be kept fresh and replaced regularly.
-Comb your pet every day with a flea and tick comb. This helps prevent re-infestation between applications of the flea medication.
Sometimes, it happens – your dog or cat gets infested with fleas, or a tick attaches itself to your pet. There are things you can do to get rid of the infestation. Here are some options.
-Oral flea killers encourage the fleas to bite your pet, and then the fleas die almost immediately. Obviously, this does not prevent fleas from re-infesting your pet a couple of days later, so if you use this option, follow up with a prevention like a topical spot-on.
-Remove the tick from your pet using tweezers and topical anesthetic. Keep the removed tick in a zip-top bag and freeze it. This will kill the tick but preserve it in case you need to identify it later. (If illness develops, it’s important to be able to identify the tick.)
-Flea powders and sprays are also effective at killing off an infestation. But once again, a preventative measure needs to be taken as well to prevent re-infestation.
Natural Options for Flea and Tick Control
When it comes to flea and tick control, many pet owners get uncomfortable with the toxic pesticides that are used in conventional methods. These days, there are some natural options out there. Sometimes, they take a bit more “elbow grease,” but they may be just as effective and are generally safer. Here are some natural options for flea and tick control for your pets and home.
1. On Your Pets
-Spot-on or squeeze-on topical flea treatments are available in natural forms. Most of these have essential oils that smell strongly, but that repel and even kill fleas and ticks. Oils like pennyroyal, cedar, peppermint, and others are combined to make a potent flea and tick killer and repellent.
-Sprays also come in natural form, usually involving the same essential oils as noted above.
-There are now all-natural flea powders on the market that work mechanically, not chemically to kill fleas and ticks. These powders “dry up” the pests by drawing the moisture out of their bodies. This is important because fleas and ticks can not become immune to mechanical methods. They can sometimes develop resistance to chemical methods.
-Try mixing some garlic (a small amount) and Brewer’s yeast into your dog’s food. This tends to repel fleas.
-Comb! It’s hard to beat a daily comb with a fine-toothed grooming comb. Keep a zip-top baggie and piece of white paper nearby while you groom. When you get a flea or tick in the comb, immediately slip it into the baggie, zip the top, then lay the baggie down on the white paper. Look for the pest, and “pop” (smash) it through the plastic using the handle of the comb. Repeat!
-Natural, herb-based flea collars can be very effective as long as they are replaced often.
-Bathe your dog often with lather-rich shampoo. Leave the lather on for a bit, and try adding some essential oils like cedar, eucalyptus, or citrus to the bath water. This will help repel pests after the bath.
2. Home and Yard
It’s often said that treating your pet only goes so far if you don’t treat your home and yard, too. Here are some natural options for your house and yard.
-Vacuum daily to remove fleas and flea eggs. Flea eggs can live in hardwood, too. To make sure the fleas don’t start multiplying within your vacuum bag, suck up a few mothballs or Borax into your vacuum to kill them.
-Diatomaceous earth, or diatom earth, is a great natural insect killer that dries out the pests. Dust it liberally on your lawn and around your home. Wear a dust mask. You can sprinkle it in and around your pet’s bedding, too.
-Borax powder, sold in the laundry aisle of your favorite store, is said to kill fleas if sprinkled liberally on carpets and furniture, allowed to sit, and then vacuumed up.