Pet ownership is a very rewarding experience, but there's one thing that can make you want to turn around and head back to the shelter -- fleas. A flea infestation is one of the worst things you can go through as a pet owner, not to mention the discomfort it causes your poor pet. There are several life cycles to a flea and unless you quash it at each stage at the same time, you're going to continue to have problems. And then you have ticks, which are entirely another issue. If you want to get pests off your pets and out of your home, take a look at our five tips.
Spray Your Yard
Fleas and ticks may find their way into your home, but you can bet that they came from outside, most likely hitching a ride from your dog or cat. For flea infestations and prevention, you're going to have to spray your yard. Your local hardware store will have a selection of pesticides that prevent a host of insects, fleas and ticks included. Most are diluted with water and sprayed onto the yard with a sprayer that works with your garden hose. Follow the directions for use on the bottle and make sure you spray when the yard is dry, and then allow it to fully dry before you allow your pets back into the yard. Regular preventive spraying, twice a year, will go a long way toward preventing pet pests year round.
Seal Holes and Cracks
Another way fleas may be entering your home is on the backs of tiny little mice, moles and other vermin. Especially if you live in an older home, there very well may be some small cracks and holes along the foundation where a mouse might get in the house. Get a can of spray foam and make your way around your house, checking every nook and cranny for cracks and holes. You'd be surprised at how small a crack can be and still accommodate a mouse or a rat. Make sure you get everything sealed up and this will help keep pests at bay.
If you live in places where fleas and ticks are more abundant, you should probably get your pet on a regular cycle of preventative flea medication. These vary from monthly pills to applications of a small amount of liquid medication to the back of your dog or cat's neck. The major brands work pretty much the same: They prevent the flea from reaching the adult, egg-laying stage of its life cycle. You can also find pills that kill the fleas on the body in a 24-hour period. They can be used days in a row and in conjunction with the long-term meds. Read up on the different varieties to decide which ones work best for your pet.
Attack by Hand
Despite your best efforts with medications and yard sprays, you're also going to have to get personally involved because there may still be some fleas on your pet that you have to get rid of by hand. The first thing you'll need is a flea comb. This is a fine tooth metal comb that roots out fleas with each stroke. Concentrate on the areas around the back of the neck, behind the ears, and on the back, butt and tail. Keep a bowl of soapy water on hand to deposit the fleas into, because fleas can actually sit on top of plain water and jump away. You should also give your dogs and cats a good once over for ticks about once per week during the summer months. To remove a tick, use fine tweezers and grab near the skin. Pull slowly and steadily, without jerking or twisting. Your goal is to remove the mouth parts along with the tick.
Flea Baths and Dips
Flea baths and flea dips are another great tool in your arsenal against pet pests. Flea baths you can give yourself; just find a good flea shampoo at your local pet store and follow the directions closely. This usually means leaving the shampoo worked into the coat for several minutes before rinsing. Flea dips are a little more thorough, and involves taking your pet into a groomer for a full body dip into a flea-killing solution. Keep in mind that both the shampoo and the flea dip formula are laden with chemicals, so if keeping your pet chemical-free is important to you, it may not be an option.
You may have spotted these insects in your home. But are they bad to have around? And how do you get rid of them?
- "Flea and Ticks: FAQs About Fleas." 800petmeds.com. June 23, 2012. http://www.1800petmeds.com/education/faq-fleas-dog-cat-7.htm
- "Flea Infestation." Fleainfestation.net. June 23, 2012. http://www.fleainfestation.net/
- "Fleas on Dogs: What to Look For." Webmd.com. June 23, 2012. http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/fleas-dogs-what-look-for
- "Tick Identification." Tickinfo.com. June 23, 2012. http://www.tickinfo.com/