Pet World: Guarding against fleas and ticks

Smiling golden retriever puppy on green grass
Smiling golden retriever puppy on green grass

Florida temps have already set off a flea and tick and mosquito frenzy here in North Central Florida. Getting rid of fleas and ticks is a challenge, but with the right products and the correct procedures, you can beat the pests.

You need to roll up your sleeves to prepare to protect your dog against fleas and ticks. Most important is to keep the parasites out of your yard and your home.

Ticks can survive the winter, and after the thaw a feeding and breeding female tick can lay thousands of eggs at one time in your carpet or your yard. Fleas can also survive freezing temperatures and immature pupae on wild animals can land in your grass, patio or garage.

Remember that wild animals can also deposit flea eggs into your yard. Avoid this kind of infestation by altering the landscape of your home with frequent mowing, trimming shrubs and trees, and removing any accumulations of leaves or dead plants.

Be sure to vacuum inside your home at least once a week and always throw away the bag. This will promote a healthy environment for both you and your pet.

You should always have on hand a pyrethrin based product like Adams Plus products. Adams Plus provides a home spray for furniture and carpet and flea spray and shampoo for the animals. The “plus” in the name implies that it has the ability to kill the eggs as well and the live fleas and ticks.

An all-out attack on the pests is worth the expense and the effort. You should treat home furniture, carpet and any exposed fabrics such as dog beds.

Now you need to get your dog to the vet for a heartworm test and heartworm preventative, which will protect your pet from fleas, ticks, heartworm and intestinal parasites. When your oral preventative is used as prescribed, parasites will not return to your world. And mosquitos will not be able to inject heartworm that will eventually kill your dog if untreated. The best treatment is prevention.

My recommendation is Simparica Trio Chewable Tablets or a similar prescription product available after a clear heartworm test. This product protects against most internal parasites like worms, and external parasites like fleas, ticks and most important mosquitos that inject heartworm into your dog’s bloodstream.

This is especially problematic here in Florida. Don’t skip any doses! One missed dose can cause an infestation or further expose your dog to heartworm or diseases caused by these parasites.

Even after you take precautions to reduce fleas and ticks, you should still take extra measures to protect your dogs. Be sure to read carefully the label on flea control products.

There are shampoos, dips, flea collars, over-the-counter flea pills, and spot-on external treatments such as Frontline. Some only kill adult fleas and some kill fleas and larvae, ending the cycle.

Before buying a flea and tick control product for internal use, be sure to consult with your veterinarian about which product best fits your dog’s lifestyle and environment.

Also, if you have more than one dog or cat, remember to treat all of your fur-bearing animals. One untreated pet can lead to an infestation in your home.

If you decide to use a topical flea and tick control product, be cautious of risky chemicals that could harm your pets or family. Some ingredients can be toxic, like malathion which is absorbed through the skin and can cause cancer.

Be sure to follow all instructions when using these products and to use them with consistency. So, to protect your dogs and cats against fleas and ticks, take care of your home and yard, and maintain monthly applications of oral flea and tick control products throughout the year.

Remember, if your dog is on a monthly oral heartworm preventative, you will no longer need flea shampoo, spray, home treatments, etc. because the infestation problem will not resurface as long as you are giving the monthly dose as prescribed.

It usually takes two months for all the fleas to disappear from your world after starting the oral treatments. This method seems expensive, but it is less expensive than an all-out war to rid your home of the pests.

This is the second in a new series on pets. To read the first column, click here.

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