Saving Your Pet from Fleas & Ticks
Every pet parent knows how much of a nuisance fleas and ticks can be. At best your pets become itchy and skittish, at worst they become miserable and lethargic. Ticks and parasites survive by feeding on the blood of host animals. And just like ticks, fleas can be a vector for disease for your pets, or even for you! Fleas can be partly responsible for tapeworm infections and severe flea infestations can cause anemia. So, what can you do? The best first step is prevention. If that fails, there are ways to spot the beginnings of a flea and/or tick infestation as well as ways to stop it in its tracks.
How to Prevent an Infestation
As with most illnesses, prevention is almost certainly better than cure. This is true for preventing flea and tick infestation on your pets and in your home. Speaking with your veterinarian about oral or topical treatments to protect against fleas and ticks is the best way to prevent an infestation. There are also several things you can do to make your home a less hospitable environment for fleas and ticks.
For the outdoors, mow your lawn on a regular basis and use pet-safe insecticides that can also aid in prevention. Fleas can also live in carpets, bedding, and other surfaces in the home where pets frequent. To prevent an indoor infestation, sweep or vacuum well and often. Vacuum your carpets and rugs as well as chairs and sofas. Be sure to empty the vacuum outside when finished. Also, consider cleaning your pet’s bedding and any other areas they like to lounge around infrequently.
Catching it Early
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, fleas find their way into our homes and onto us and our animals. Maybe it’s because you live in an apartment, and they hitch a ride on your neighbor’s dog. Or perhaps your selected flea treatment didn’t last as long as you expected it to.
No matter the reason, we’ve got a few tips on how to identify a flea infestation as early as possible. The earlier you identify it, the earlier you can get it under control!
- Comb your pet regularly: Monitor your pet’s fur for fleas and ticks by regularly checking their skin for irritations, bite marks, or other signs of fleas, such as eggs or detritus (blackish-red “flea dirt”). You want to pay close attention to areas like the back of the head and around the ears, the armpits, or the rump. Fleas will jump on and off you and your pet, so finding signs of fleas is important, even if you do not find fleas themselves. You can check for ticks by running your hands over your pet’s coat to check for any unusual lumps as well as carefully check the preferred locations for ticks, which are around the head, feet, and ears.
- Keep an eye on your pet’s behavior. Are they scratching more than usual? Are they pulling their fur out? Do they have dermatitis? Are they biting at the same area over and over? These are all potential signs that fleas are present. Note: If this behavior is present, but you cannot find any other signs of fleas or ticks, bring your pet in to be checked by our team. We can ensure there are no other health problems!
- Check all your pets. If one pet is exhibiting signs of fleas or ticks, but your other pet’s behavior hasn’t changed and they don’t scratch themselves much, that doesn’t mean your other pet isn’t at risk. There is a strong chance you will find evidence of fleas on both! Not all animals are allergic to flea bites, therefore some may not show symptoms.
- Anemia is a concern. Be sure to keep an eye on your pets during regular care and grooming. Lethargy, weakness and even pale gums can be signs that they’re anemic, i.e., that a high number of fleas are sucking their blood.
How to Get Rid of Fleas & Ticks on Your Pet
Fleas: The first point of control should be your pet. Even if they aren’t the source of an infestation, this will help mitigate discomfort and health risks. Be sure to talk to us about your options!
- A monthly oral medication will help interfere with the early life stages of new fleas.
- Topical treatment can protect your pet’s entire body and kill adult fleas on contact.
- Remember to keep combing your pet. This will let you know if the selected treatment is working as expected. You should also regularly vacuum your home to prevent flea eggs and larva from settling in, as well as regularly clean bedding, etc.
Ticks: It is best to remove a tick as soon as you spot it contact for proper removal. It is important to remove all parts of the tick as it is possible for parts of it to remain embedded in your pet’s skin which could lead to an infection. Additionally, the tick’s blood could be infected with various diseases that can also infect people, so avoid it as much as possible. Ticks are notoriously difficult to kill so throwing them away or trying to drown them in the toilet is not always effective. Instead, submerge the tick in a jar of rubbing alcohol to stop it from attaching to your animal.
How to Get Rid of Fleas & Ticks in the House
So, the fleas have gotten past your defenses and into your home. What now? How do you and your pet stay healthy and put an end to your misery?
A monthly flea and tick preventative, paired with a simple house spray or carpet treatment may be enough, but if the infestation is severe, you may want to talk to us about more extreme solutions, such as flea bombs, anti-flea sprays, or carpet powders. Tick infestations in your home may require enlisting professional pest professionals to eliminate the ticks.
If you need more advice on treating your pet for fleas and ticks, call us at (503) 297-2218 to discuss your concerns. If you live in or near Portland our veterinarians at can provide you with the care and expertise you need to fight these critters!