The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Bark + Boarding, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, Bark & Boarding offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.
by Chelsea Pennington, Writer and Animal Enthusiast
As the weather warms up, no one may be more excited than our pets.
Spring and summer mean long walks, exploring nature and maybe even a hike through the woods. Unfortunately, these places are also common hiding spots for fleas and ticks. Whether you have an adventurous pup or an indoor cat, these pests can cause major problems.
To prevent fleas and ticks from bothering your pets and make sure they can enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, try following these tips.
Be on the lookout for pests
Whenever your dog comes in from the outdoors, especially if they’ve been near tall grass or wooded areas, inspect them for fleas and ticks. Fleas are usually too small to see, so look for “flea dirt,” or feces, which look like tiny dark clumps caught in your pet’s fur. Especially look for them in areas where the coat is thin, such as the belly, inner side of the hind legs and armpits.
If you see this telltale sign of fleas, you’ll need to bring you pet to your veterinarian for treatment. Ticks, however, can often be handled at home. Inspect for ticks, paying careful attention to your pet’s feet (including in between toes), on lips, around eyes and ears (including inside ears) and under the tail.
Use your hand to feel for small bumps in your pet’s fur — these could be ticks.
If you do find one, you might be able to remove it yourself. Using tweezers, grip the tick as close to the pet’s skin as possible. Pull the tick from the skin with gentle, steady pressure, being sure not to twist or crush it. Make sure you remove all parts of the tick, and if you think the head might still be lodged in the skin, take your pet to the vet for proper removal.
While the timely removal of ticks can help prevent secondary illnesses that can result from a tick bite, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it on your own, bringing your pet to the vet is the safer choice.
If you do remove it, you can either dispose of it by wrapping it in tape and putting it in an outside trash can, or you may want to keep it in a container to show your vet so they can know what kind of tick it was.
Maintain the environment
While it’s not possible to keep every single flea and tick out of your yard, there are some simple methods to decrease how many find their way in.
Keep your grass mowed short and keep shrubbery around your house well-trimmed. Remove any piles of leaves that accumulated over the cold months, as well as any fallen logs that may provide a good home to rodents, which are often the hosts of fleas and ticks.
If you want to be extra careful, consider having your lawn treated with flea and tick pesticides, a service offered by most yard care companies. Just be sure to keep your pets off the grass for a few days after the treatment is applied!
Taking care of your indoor space can also help prevent pests. Vacuum carpeted areas regularly, especially places where your pet likes to hang out, and empty the bag outside, not into your trashcan where the pests might still escape.
Cleaning or vacuuming your pet’s bed or sleeping area is also helpful to make sure it’s pest-free. If you do have a flea or tick infestation, it’s usually best to buy an entirely new bed, just to be sure.
Find a medicine that works for you and your pet
There are a variety of oral and topical medicines on the market, and many of them are very effective against fleas and ticks. Oral medicines kill pests after they bite the animal, while topicals aim to kill them just by contact. For this reason, topicals can be especially helpful for a pet that might have a fleabite allergy.
You should treat all of your pets, even if some of them never go outside. Fleas and ticks can be carried indoors on other pets, or even on shoes and clothes.
That being said, examining your pet’s lifestyle can help you decide which type of medicine to use. Cats who stay indoors need less aggressive treatments than a dog who is out playing in the woods and long grass. Talk with your vet before choosing any medicine to make sure it’s the best fit for your pet.
Also, it is critical to follow the labels of any medicine — if it is labeled for use on a dog, do not use it on a cat, and vice versa. If you have both and you’re looking to save money, choose a medicine that is labeled for both cat and dog use.
If you’d prefer to avoid the chemicals and use a natural remedy, Bark + Boarding’s shop carries several options.
One popular treatment is from Kin + Kind and comes in a shampoo formula for both cats and dogs, or a spray for dogs that you can apply as needed, such as before a long hike where pests are likely to be present. Since it’s made with all-natural and organic ingredients, you can also reapply it once you’re home without having to worry about introducing chemicals into your house or harming your dog by using too much.
Bark + Boarding shops also carry a peppermint-scented natural spray from Wondercide that can be used on pets as well as inside your house to treat interior spaces. It’s a great option for protecting a pet’s bed if the material can’t be put through the washing machine. Natural solutions such as these can be a good choice if you have small children around and want to be extra careful with what you bring into your house.
By following these steps, you can ensure you and your pets are able to fully enjoy the warm weather and sunshine!