Outdoor activities can quickly become unpleasant if your pet brings hitchhiking pests home. Fleas and ticks are more than just a nuisance—they have the potential to cause extreme irritation to you and your pets. Even worse, they can transmit harmful diseases, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and tapeworm infections.

Flea and tick detection

To detect pests early, regularly check your pet for signs of fleas and ticks. Take a moment every few days to part the fur and look directly at the skin. Use a fine-tooth comb to brush your pet’s fur, checking for live fleas and ticks. Both are dark in color, making them easy to spot against light-colored skin.

Fleas love to hide out in hard-to-reach places on dogs and cats. While you may occasionally see one scurrying across your pet’s body, the best places to look are under the chin, at the base of the tail, and on the face. In addition to live fleas, keep an eye out for small, black specs on your pet’s skin. Flea feces—also called flea dirt—is found in the places where fleas have been hanging out. Not sure if what you’re seeing is flea feces or just plain dirt? Place a few of these black specs on a wet paper towel to see if they turn red. Since flea feces is essentially dried blood, it will dissolve into a red spot on your paper towel.

Ticks can be a bit trickier to spot. While they can attach anywhere, check in and around the ears, between the toes, and under the armpits. Engorged adult ticks are generally easy to see, however tiny nymphs and adult ticks that haven’t yet taken a blood meal may be more difficult to locate.

Flea and tick removal

If you find fleas on your pet, start with a bath to get rid of eggs, flea dirt, and live fleas. Medicated baths

are not necessary for this process; whatever pet-safe shampoo you regularly use will work. If you are not able to bathe your pet, give our office a call. Our veterinarians can prescribe a medication that will quickly kill all of the fleas on your pet.

If ticks are discovered, they can simply be removed. Use tweezers or a tick removal tool to remove the entire tick, including the embedded head. Grasp the tick where it is attached to your pet’s skin and gently pull it out. Never use a match to try to burn a tick off—you can burn your pet, and this may actually increase the likelihood of disease transmission. Once removed, place the tick in rubbing alcohol and call our office for identification.

Once your pet is free of fleas and ticks, a critical step in preventing future infestation is the use of a veterinary-approved preventive product. Topical and oral treatments are available, as well as collars. Although many products can be purchased over the counter, insecticides can easily cause toxic reactions if used incorrectly. The products available from our veterinary clinic are always the safest, as they come with education and usage instructions from our veterinary team. Speak with our staff about the best product for your pets.

Home removal and prevention

The adult fleas you see on your pet make up only five percent of the total flea population in your home. Adult fleas lay eggs that will develop into larvae, then pupae, before becoming adults. This developmental process takes around six months, while adult fleas only live for four weeks. The eggs, larvae, and pupae compose the other 95 percent of the flea population. This means that for every adult you see, there are 19 other fleas in various stages of development lurking.

Once you’ve treated your pet to remove adult fleas, you’ll want to continue to keep her flea-free. Wash her bedding and anything she lays on once a week in hot water. Include any plush toys in these loads of laundry, too. Vacuum your floors and furniture every 2–3 days, emptying the canister into a trash bag and immediately placing it in an outside trash can once finished.

Fighting a flea infestation can feel like a losing battle—if you still see fleas after several rounds of thorough cleaning, talk to our veterinary team about home products that are non-toxic to your pets.

Yard removal and prevention

Since fleas and ticks are picked up outside, one of the most important parts of prevention is eliminating their outdoor hiding spots. Fleas and ticks enjoy nesting in shaded areas, like tall grass, leaf litter, and wood piles. Keep your grass trimmed short, rake up leaves, and clean up brush and dead plants. A fence can prevent unknown animals—wild and domesticated—from visiting and bringing pests into your yard. If you decide to use chemicals to treat an infested yard, speak with our team members first about pet-safe products.

Questions about fleas or ticks? Contact us at 318-797-5522.