As the snow thaws and we start to see the grass it is also flea and tick season. While fleas can be around year long, we start to see more ticks once the temperatures are around 4°C. Ticks can typically be found in tall grass and wooded areas, whereas fleas are in shady leafy debris piles and underneath decks, but also inside homes in the carpet and under furniture. When either insect bites it can lead to infection or the transmission of diseases. Fleas commonly cause tapeworm infections and skin infections referred to as flea dermatitis. There are many tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis and more. These diseases and infections are zoonotic and can transfer to humans.
Prevention Methods & Treatment
When it comes to flea collars, make sure to read the package as some only kill fleas or adult fleas and ticks while others also kill flea eggs. The duration of effectiveness may vary between product as well, while some protect against fleas for 5 months and ticks for 4 months, some repel both for up to 7 months. It can be kept on during bath or swimming, but this may result in you having to replace it sooner. Never replace more often than 3 or 4 months, dependent on product. The collar must be applied tight enough to have skin contact or it may not be as effective.
Some topical treatments for pets only offer protection against fleas and/or flea eggs but not ticks, so keep that in mind if you need tick protection as well. These types of treatments usually last four weeks.
Straightforward application: part the hair between the shoulder blades as they are unable to lick off the product here, squeeze contents directly onto the skin. Topical treatments should be left to dry for at least 2 days before bathing or swimming. They should not be applied to already irritated, inflamed or broken skin.
These topical treatments are based on the pets’ weight so also make sure you get the correct product for the current weight of your pet. These products are also available specifically for cat and dog, never give a cat a product meant for a dog and vice versa. Be extra careful in multiple pet households as they may be able to lick the product off each other or transfer the product which may be a concern for overdosing. Some side effects that can be much worse with overdosing are anxiousness, itchiness, gastrointestinal upset, and redness or irritation to the skin.
The benefit of the shampoo is that the fastest way to kill fleas and ticks is to expose them directly to a wet insecticide. The product is applied directly to the coat, massaging in to reach the skin to cover all areas the fleas or ticks would be. This will take care of adult fleas, flea eggs, and ticks for up to 4 weeks. The products usually include soothing ingredients like oatmeal, coconut oil, lanolin, and aloe to help with the sensitive or dry skin that sometimes results. The shampoo should not be used on broken or already irritated skin. Treatment once a month is the general suggestion, but always read the labels and directions.
There are more natural products like repellent sprays that do not include the harsh chemicals or smells that may appear in some of the previous options. Many sprays use essential oils such as citronella and tea tree oil, which can be harmful for cats, so always check the label to ensure it is safe to use for both cats and dogs if applicable. Typically, these are not safe for pets under 12 weeks of age. This option is meant to provide protection without the skin irritation. Some repellant sprays protect against adult fleas, flea eggs and ticks while some only protect against one or the other. These range from needing application each time they can potentially be exposed, to needing application every 2 weeks.
Tickless is an excellent product for repelling fleas and ticks as well. It uses ultrasonic pulses that are imperceptible to humans and pets. The pulses disorient the parasites, which makes them stay away from your pet. The device is designed for preventive purposes and does not remove ticks or fleas that are already present on an infected pet. They have done tests showing a 94% efficiency against ticks. Of course, effectiveness does depend on the condition of the animal’s coat and how heavily populated with ticks that area is. It is odour free with no chemicals, so it is safe for all ages, sizes, and health conditions, as well as pregnant and nursing pets. Keeps pests away for at least 6 months after activation. It comes in two sizes and an assortment of colours for you to choose from. The device is not waterproof, but moisture resistant. If the device gets wet, dry it off immediately to avoid any water damage. Due to its small size, it may be a choking hazard, always have it clipped to the collar or out of pets’ and children’s reach.
Another more natural option is diatomaceous earth. It is an odourless, non staining powder made from the sediment of fossilized algae. The microscopic sharp edges pierce the exoskeleton of the pests and dehydrates them; it also kills them by absorbing all the oils and fats within. It is important to only use food grade instead of the filtered grade as this can be harmful. To help with fleas and ticks, sprinkle liberally over pet’s body, focusing on problem areas like around the ears as well as the stomach and hind end. Work it through their coat to reach their skin. You can wash it off after 8 hours with a gentle shampoo and conditioner to rehydrate the skin and coat. The powder can be applied once a day for seven days in severe cases, repeat if needed. They do not recommend giving to pets who already struggle with dry skin or respiratory issues. Always take care to not get in in the eyes or around mouth or nose. Can be harmful if ingested in substantial amounts as it can accumulate in the lungs. It is known to help with other external pests like ants, bed bugs, and cockroaches.
Is it necessary to treat the home and yard?
Since fleas and ticks can move around, they can fall off the effected animal onto the furniture or carpets infesting the house. The fleas you see on your pet are only 5% of what the total flea population would be in their environment. Ninety-five percent of the fleas are found in the home and yard in the form of eggs, larvae, and pupae. This means that treating just the pet does not rid your home of the pests. To treat the home and yard there are a few options. There is what is a “premise spray” which is only meant to be used in the environment, spraying beds, curtains, carpets etc., but never spray on the pet. It is designed to be used in conjunction with on-animal treatments. Treatment kills fleas and ticks, providing typically 7 months of protection. If pest infestation persists, treatment may need to be repeated 2-3 weeks after initial treatment. Diatomaceous earth can also be used in the home and outside. For inside, sprinkle all over floor, carpet, bedding, and furniture. After 3-4 days you can vacuum it up from all surfaces and mop or wipe them down. For outside, it is recommended to apply across the whole yard, though make sure to not do it on a day that it is raining, can be reapplied each month as needed.
How to safely remove a tick
The longer a tick is attached, the more likely it will transmit bacteria which may lead to infections and/or diseases. To contract Lyme disease, the tick must be attached for 1-2 days. You want to avoid tearing or squishing the tick as you may be spreading more bacteria into the bite area. You want to spread the fur, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull straight upward in a slow motion. This prevents the tick’s mouth from remaining in the skin. It is never recommended to use your fingers to remove a tick as you don’t want to risk squeezing more bacteria into the bite site. There are many products specially made for safe tick removal, otherwise a fine tipped pair of tweezers would be best.
As a reminder, always make sure the product you are using is safe for your pet whether cat or dog, as well as their age and health. Ensure you are picking a product that protects against all the pests you are concerned about, as protection does vary. Most products are not safe for pregnant or nursing pets. If ever unsure, you can always ask our healthy pet care specialists in store for advice.