What you need to know about protecting your pet from fleas, ticks

What you need to know about protecting your pet from fleas, ticks
By: Julia Demma Last Updated: May 29, 2020

Because fleas and ticks mostly remain out of sight, it’s common to forget about the looming critters and the problems these insects can have on your pet. Here are a few pointers from McAfee Animal Hospital veterinarians on how to keep these pesky visitors away.

Why is flea & tick prevention important?

Flea and tick preventative should be used year-round to prevent infestations, which once established, may take months to control. Flea and tick infestations are also a public health concern as they can transmit a number of zoonotic agents (bacterium, virus, or fungus that are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and humans).

What are some signs & symptoms that I should look out for to see if my pet may have fleas?

Typically, pruritus (extreme itch) is the first clinical sign that will alert you that your pet may have fleas. Adult fleas also secrete blood after biting, which dries into reddish-black pellets in their hair coat. The pellets are commonly 76known as flea dirt. Carefully inspect your pet by brushing his or her hair backward to get a closer look for these red flags.

CDC fleas

How often/ how should I check my pet for ticks?

You should check your pet for ticks every day, especially if he/she has been in a grassy or wooded area. Ticks can attach to a dog or cat anywhere, but the most common locations include inside the ears, between toes, under the tail, in the genital region, around the eyelids, or under the collar. Ticks prefer a dark, wet location.

pet ticks

To check for ticks, rub your hands over your dog slowly and thoroughly beginning at the face and moving back towards the tail. Comb your fingers through the hair. Ticks can be as small as the head of a pin but can cause big problems for your pets. Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect under a thick haircoat. Signs of tick-borne disease may not appear for 14 to 21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick.

If I do find a tick, what is the best way to remove it?

If you feel a bump, separate the hair to visualize. Apply gloves to prevent zoonotic infection. Grab the tick at the base of the sac with tweezers as close to the dog’s skin as possible. Try to avoid crushing the tick’s body, and slowly and gently turn the tweezers in a clockwise motion several times. Make sure the head has been fully removed. Place the tick in a sealed jar with rubbing alcohol to dispose, as the alcohol will kill the tick.

ticks 101

If you are unsure if you can remove the tick or feel uncomfortable doing so, you can take your pet to your local vet where they will remove the tick and identify it. Avoid folklore remedies such as painting the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly or using heat to make the tick detach from your pet’s skin.

Are at home remedies effective for flea and tick preventative?

Some at home remedies may help prevent flea and tick infestations, but often time, something stronger is needed. Fleas can be difficult to remove from the environment and may even take several months to achieve control of a flea infestation. In fact, one pair of fleas can produce up to 500 offspring. Although adult fleas are responsible for the pruritis (itching) and annoyance for your pet, more than 90 percent of fleas are still in the immature stages (eggs, larvae, and pupae) and pose a threat to your pets and your family. It is recommended by the Companion Animal Parasite Council to treat pets with year-round flea control products to prevent establishment on the pet and flea infestations in the home.

When/how often should I bring my pet into McAfee Animal Hospital to get checked for fleas and ticks?

The professionals at McAfee Animal Hospital recommend year-round heart worm, flea, and tick preventives. At every visit, your pet is checked for fleas and ticks during a routine physical exam. If your dog exhibits any clinical signs of flea infestation or you find a tick, please contact us immediately so we can help control the problem as it is important to remove a tick as soon as possible. If a tick is removed within the first 12 hours of a bite, the risk of disease transmission is less.

About how long will the visit take and what products will be used on my pet?

If you find a tick on your pet and are unable or uncomfortable removing it at home, the team at McAfee Animal Hospital is happy to help. We would remove the tick and thoroughly clean and disinfect the tick bite area. At that time, it will be determined if your pet needs any medications.

Am I able to purchase the medication used at McAfee Animal Hospital after my pet’s visit?

McAfee Animal Hospital does offer several products for purchase at the clinic and the online store (https://mcafeeah.vetsfirstchoice.com/). There are several different heartworm, flea, and tick preventives available including oral, topical, or collars.

What are some at-home precautions I can take to protect my pet other than the medication?

It is important to consider environmental control such as treating your yard, vacuuming frequently, washing all pets bedding often, and treating all pets in the household with an appropriate preventive.

Should these visits and at home precautions continue year-round? If so, why?

McAfee Animal Hospital does recommend year-round heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives. Flea eggs can survive year-round in protected areas such as porches, garages, and inside a home. Ticks are even able to survive freezing temperatures by entering a dormant phase. Certain species of ticks are actually more active in winter.

For any further questions or interest in McAfee Animal Hospital’s services, visit their website at https://mcafeeah.com/.