This mild winter has been great for enjoying the outdoors, but it has also been great for the fleas and ticks of the Pacific Northwest. Preventative measures and early intervention can save both pet and owner a lot of misery.
Itching is the most common symptom of a flea bite, but it is also the symptom of many common ailments like food allergies, environmental sensitivities and other skin conditions.
If you suspect fleas, inspect your pet’s skin closely. You may see a flea scurry across your pet’s belly, but likely you’ll see nothing or brown specks that look like dirt. An inexpensive flea comb will help you determine the presence of and degree of infestation. Use the comb by starting at the back of the neck and with one stoke comb through the fur to the base of the tail. You may catch a flea or brown specks. Have a glass of soapy water or a moist paper towel to rinse or wipe the comb. Dirt will continue to look like dirt, but flea dirt will be red or pink tinged. One flea can lay 30-60 eggs per day, so prompt management is recommended.
If there is minimal evidence of a flea problem – i.e. one or two fleas and or a tiny bit of flea dirt – you may choose to just flea comb your pet daily, destroy any fleas you may find and manage a mild problem effectively and naturally. Flea shampoos both kill and repel fleas. There are a multitude of additional natural products, from desiccation products like diatomaceous earth and borax, which dehydrate the fleas, to essential oils that kill and repel fleas. Some essential oils used in products for dogs are toxic to cats, so never use essential oils on cats. Diatomaceous earth can also be used outside on the lawn or flower beds, sprinkled on your pet’s bedding and in areas where fleas might be entering your house. Vacuuming and laundering pet beds often are also helpful habits in the fight against fleas.
These natural solutions are most effective when started early in the flea season.
If the infestation is more severe you may wish to consider a spot-on treatment, oral medications, or foggers or professional flea eradication services. Your local veterinarian will have prescription options for you as well.
Ticks are already becoming a problem this year. Ticks look similar to spiders and hang on to shrubs or tall grass waiting for a warm body to attach to. They often attach to the face, ears and necks of pets, but can attach anywhere, even between the toes. Flea repellent sprays or wipes are often effective in deterring ticks and a flea combing after a hike can capture a tick before it attaches.
Many of the flea products are effective for tick control, too, but not all, so read the label carefully.
If you find a tick on your pet, carefully pull the tick straight out with a pair of tweezers, or a tool designed specifically for removing ticks. Do not twist, as the goal is to remove the tick intact. You should see a small divot in the flesh of your pet. If you see small black lines, you may not have removed the tick completely. If the head of the tick stays in your pet, you should contact your veterinarian for further evaluation and management.
Regular brushing, with or without a flea comb, is a good way to alert you to any parasites lurking in the fur and your pet will love the attention.
This article was provided by Cobber’s Pet Pantry, 1415 Blake St. in Enumclaw. The shop can be reached at 360-825-7387. Website: cobberspetpantry.com.