Repelling Fleas and Ticks

Spring in Minnesota is a beautiful time of year. After a long winter, your dogs (and some intrepid cats!) are finally able to get outside and enjoy the weather. But spring also marks the emergence of fleas and ticks, which can ruin everyone’s mood! Here are some quick tips to repel fleas and ticks and make sure you and your dog have a great spring and summer!

Use medical flea and tick preventatives.

All of TCPR’s foster dogs are required to receive flea and tick medication between the months of April and November based on our medical director’s recommendation; however, there is an argument to be made for year-round flea and tick preventative as well. Topical and oral medications are incredibly safe and are the most effective means of preventing flea and tick bites and infestations. Always consult your veterinarian before use, as some dogs may have adverse reactions, and certain formulas are not recommended for young dogs and cats. Be cautious of imitation medications available online which may be less effective – always check active ingredients and consult with your veterinarian for proper dosing.

Familiarize yourself with the signs of flea infestations.

You may think that flea infestations would be obvious, especially if you’ve never encountered fleas before. In reality, fleas are not always apparent, and familiarizing yourself with the signs of flea infestations is an important part of keeping your animals safe. Fleas like to live in hard-to-see places, such as the armpits or groin. Licking, biting, or scratching at these places can be signs of fleas. Sometimes, fleas are hard to see though, and it can be easier to see “flea dirt.” Small black or reddish-brown spots on your animal’s skin (especially in those hard-to-reach places) can be a sign of fleas. If you’re unsure whether you’re seeing flea dirt, wet a white paper towel and use it to wipe up the flea dirt. If the black spots turn red, they are likely flea dirt.

Not-so-fun-fact: Flea dirt is actually flea feces, which comprises the blood that fleas have ingested from your animal. This is why it will turn reddish brown when wet.

Keep your lawn mowed and avoid tall grass.

Tall grass gives fleas and ticks more surface area to connect with your dog. These areas are also generally frequented by other animals that carry fleas and ticks which can be passed to your pet. Keep your grass cut low and avoid overgrown areas on walks.

Groom your dog regularly.

Brush long-haired dogs regularly to remove any pests caught in their coat. If you have been in an area that may foster flea and tick growth (such as areas with long grass or ungroomed hiking trails), give your dog a bath and a thorough tick check using a fine toothed comb. Don’t forget to check the inner legs and inside the ears! You can also use a flea comb as an extra precaution. Medicated shampoos can be used to help clear or prevent flea infection as well, but be sure to check active ingredients, as some are more effective than others. It is important to note that grooming should be used in conjunction with medical treatment, as fleas can persist on dogs even with regular bathing.

Pro-tip: Avoiding bathing your dog for 72 hours after applying topical flea and tick medication for maximum efficacy. Stickiness at the application site can be cleaned off with an alcohol-based wipe.

Keep your house clean.

Wash your pet’s bedding regularly. If you suspect fleas, vacuum thoroughly, put flea powder in the bag, and dispose of the bag immediately.

Try diatomaceous earth.

This product is made from the fossilized remains of ancient algae, which are crushed into a fine powder. When applied to the ground around your house, the powder dehydrates the exoskeletons of pests like bed bugs and fleas. Using these products in the area around your house or yard may help kill fleas and ticks. Keep in mind, though, that diatomaceous earth will harm anything with an exoskeleton, so other types of insect can be affected (which may be a bonus for some!).

Be cautious of alternative treatments.

While it may sound comforting to use “natural” remedies to treat your pets, most alternative treatments have not been tested for efficacy or safety in dogs, cats, or humans. They can be ineffective, and more importantly, can be dangerous to your dog. Garlic and essential oils are often touted as “natural” flea/tick preventatives. In fact, garlic can cause gastrointestinal distress, hypertension, anemia, and even death in dogs and cats, and certain essential oils have been linked to neurological and behavioral problems for pets as well. It is important to always check with your veterinarian before applying or administering any treatment to your pet to ensure your furry friend remains happy and healthy.

Talk to your veterinarian.

Ask your veterinarian before applying any flea and tick preventatives. TCPR fosters can connect with their foster coordinator if they have any concerns.

Did you know that with a prescription from your veterinarian, you can get your pets Revolution for less at 1-800-PetMeds?