dog getting wet
2017 is shaping up to be a bad year for ticks in some parts of the country due to a mild winter and heavy rainfall. Under these conditions, vets typically see a spike in the number of animals brought in for external treatment. But external treatments only help with the tip of the iceberg, since only 5 percent of fleas and ticks live on animals, while 95 percent are found in yards and homes. Here are four steps to take both outdoors and indoors to keep your dog pest-free and treat them if they do become infected.

Maintain Your Yard

Fleas and ticks thrive in the moisture and darkness provided by tall grass and foliage, so trimming your grass, shrubs and trees can help deter them. At the same time, it’s important not to cut your grass too short, as it eliminates predators such as spiders and ants that eat pests. A good rule of thumb is to identify the ideal height for your grass and allow it to grow one-third higher so that you never remove more than a third of your lawn’s leaf surface at a time. Ideal height for cool-season turf such as Kentucky bluegrass or fescue is 2.5 to 4 inches, while 1 to 3 inches is ideal for warm-season grasses such as Bermuda grass and zoysia. Consult your garden product supplier for more details. You should also avoid overwatering your lawn.

Additionally, you should remove debris or objects such as discarded pots where fleas and ticks can hide. Especially clean areas of your yard that your pet frequents. Erect barriers between your lawn and local wooded areas and other yards. Keep wild animals that can carry pests out of your yard by taking steps such as cleaning up trash. At the same time, encourage animals that eat fleas and ticks, such as birds. However, keep bird feeders placed where they won’t attract squirrels or other animals that can carry fleas and ticks. For serious outdoor infestations, contact a professional wildlife removal service.

Treat Your Home

Indoors, fleas and ticks thrive in carpets and rugs. To avoid infestation, vacuum at least once a week, and more often if you spot fleas or ticks. Make sure you get out-of-the-way areas such as along baseboards, under cushions and furniture and especially anywhere your pet sleeps, plays or eats. Change vacuum bags regularly, since eggs and larvae can grow in them. Wash your dog’s bedding and toys in hot water weekly.

If you discover fleas or ticks in your home, vacuum your carpet and change the bags. Then steam clean or shampoo your carpet. Clean your carpet first before using any insecticides. Sprinkle your carpet and other areas such as cushions with non-toxic, food-grade diatomaceous earth, being careful not to inhale it as you spread it. You can also spray your home with insect growth regulator.

Do Regular Flea Combing and Shampooing

To keep your dog free from fleas, you should groom your pet regularly with a flea comb. Before combing, inspect your dog by turning him on his back so you can check for signs of redness, scratching or bleeding on areas fleas are likely to hide, which include armpits, the groin, and the base of the tail. Then, with a bowl of soapy water on hand and a white towel on the floor to help you spot black specks that indicate flea dirt, run the flea comb over your dog’s back and legs, throwing any fleas you find in the bowl. If you find any ticks, pull them out slowly, being careful not to squish them, which can spread disease; then kill them by dropping them into a glass filled with alcohol.

You should also wash your pet regularly with a pesticide-free shampoo. Ask your vet to recommend a product and shampooing schedule.

Medicate Your Pets

Pets that have been affected should be medicated. Some medications carry risks. To reduce risks, consult the GreenPaws Flea and Tick Products Directory and talk to your vet about product recommendations, and follow directions closely. You can get some good flea and tick medications over the counter, but for stronger medication, you will need a prescription from your vet.

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Filed under: Dog Care

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