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Flea and Tick Prevention

The best way to attack fleas and ticks is to prevent them from getting to your pet before you ever have a problem. There are a number of flea and tick control products for use on pets, including once-a-month topical products, sprays, dips, shampoos, collars, powders, oral and injectable products. You may see some live fleas or ticks on your pet for a short time after spraying, shampooing, dipping, etc. In order for the fleas and ticks to die, they must come into contact with the insecticide and absorb it.

 

Once-a-month Topicals: Once-a-month topical insecticides are applied to a small area on your pet's back. They are probably the easiest product to use, and generally last the longest. Some kill fleas and ticks, and others just kill fleas. Also, some control adults, larvae and egges. Some only control adults and some only control eggs and larvae. So check the label carefully. Ingredients generally include permethrin, pyrethrin or fipronil. Since many dog products can be very harmful if used on cats, read the label carefully. Do not use products containing permethrins on cats.

 

Sprays: Flea and tick control sprays can come as aerosols or pump bottles. When using a spray, you do not have to soak the pet with the spray, but be sure to spray all parts of the animal. Spray a small amount on a cotton ball to apply the product around the eyes and ears. Do not get any of these products in the eyes. Follow your veterinarian's and the manufacturer's directions on how often to spray, and spray in a well-ventilated area.

 

Dips: Dips and rinses are applied to the entire animal. They generally have some residual activity. They should be applied in a well-ventilated area according to your veterinarian's and the manufacturer's directions. It is helpful to put cotton balls in the pet's ears and ophthalmic ointment in the pet's eyes. Even with these precautions, be very careful not to get any of the product in the pet's ears or eyes. Dips or rinses for cats contain pyrethrins. Again, read the label carefully. Many products for dogs are not safe to use on cats.

 

Shampoos: Flea and tick shampoos help to primarily rid the pet of the fleas and ticks he already has on him, although some have residual activity. To properly use a flea & tick shampoo you must be sure to work the shampoo in over the entire body and then leave it on at least 10 minutes before you rinse it off. Again, remember to protect the eyes and ears of the pet. Shampoos often contain pyrethrins.

 

Collars: Flea and tick collars can be effective, but must be applied properly. To get the right degree of snugness, you should just be able to get two fingers between the collar and your pet's neck. Be sure to cut off any excess portion of the collar after you have properly applied it. Otherwise, that animal or other pets may try to chew on the end. Check the package for information on duration of effectiveness since some collars lose effectiveness when they get wet, e.g., if your dog swims a lot. Watch carefully for any irritation under the collar. If this occurs, you may need to use a different product.

Do not use collars containing Amitraz, permethrin, or organophosphates on cats.

 

Oral Products: Products containing an insect development inhibitor are available as a tablet for dogs and cats. The tablets are given once a month. Not all of these products kill the adult fleas, so if you have fleas, you may also need something to kill the adults. There is one oral product that kills adult fleas, but it last only 24 hours. Otherwise, these products only control reproduction and require the flea to bite to be effective.

 

Flea Combs: Flea combs are often overlooked as a valuable tool in removing fleas. Your pet will love the extra, hands-on attention he gets as you comb through his coat. Flea combs are absolutely non-toxic and are the best method to use on ill, pregnant or infant pets. Be sure to choose a comb that has 32 teeth/inch. Comb your pet and then place the fleas you comb off in detergent water, which will kill them. The disadvantage to flea combing is that it takes a considerable amount of time, and will not be effective in pets that have flea bite hypersensitivity.

 

Flea Control in Your Home

If this message is reaching you too late and your pet already has fleas, you need to treat your home as well as the pet or you won’t be rid of them. Indoor flea control involves removing all stages of the fleas, killing any remaining adults and preventing immature forms from developing. Here is what you need to do.

 

  • Start by vacuuming thoroughly, especially below drapes, under furniture edges, and where your pet sleeps. It is estimated that vacuuming can remove up to 50 percent of flea eggs. Vacuum daily in high traffic areas, weekly in others. Each time, seal your vacuum bag in a plastic bag and discard it immediately. Do not place mothballs or flea collars in the vacuum, since toxic fumes could result.

  • Use a product that will kill any remaining adult fleas and also stop the development of eggs and larvae. You will need a product that contains both an adulticide and an insect growth regulator, such as Nylar (pyriproxyfen) or methoprene. This can be in the form of carpet powders, foggers, or sprays.

  • Foggers are especially good for large open areas. Surface sprays can reach areas such as baseboards, moldings, cracks, and under furniture where foggers cannot reach. Choose the product(s) you use with care, taking into account the presence of children, fish, birds, persons with asthma, etc. Your veterinarian can help you choose the appropriate products for your situation. In severe infestations, you may need the help of a professional exterminator.

  • Wash your pet's bedding weekly and treat the bed and surrounding area with a product that contains both an adulticide and an insect growth regulator.

  • Do not forget to also clean and treat your automobile, pet carrier, garage, basement, or any other place your pet spends much time.

Tick Removal

To remove an attached tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or special tick removal instruments. These special devices allow one to remove the tick without squeezing the tick body. This is important, as you do not want to crush the tick and force harmful bacteria to leave the tick and enter the pet's bloodstream.

  1. Grab the tick by the head or mouth parts right where they enter the skin. Do not grasp the tick by the body.

  2. Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. Do not twist the tick as you are pulling.

  3. Using methods such as applying petroleum jelly, a hot match, or alcohol will NOT cause the tick to 'back out.' In fact, these irritants may cause the tick to deposit more disease-carrying saliva in the wound.

  4. After removing the tick, place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it. Ticks are NOT killed by flushing them down the toilet.

  5. Clean the bite wound with a disinfectant. If you want to, apply a small amount of a triple antibiotic ointment.

  6. Wash your hands thoroughly.

Do not use your fingers to remove or dispose of the tick. Do not squash the tick with your fingers. The contents of the tick can transmit disease.

Once an embedded tick is manually removed, it is not uncommon for a welt and skin reaction to occur. A little hydrocortisone spray will help alleviate the irritation, but it may take a week or more for healing to take place. In some cases, the tick bite may permanently scar leaving a hairless area. This skin irritation is due to the irritating and destructive tick saliva. It is not due to the tick losing its head, literally. Do not be worried about the tick head staying in; it rarely happens.

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© 2014 Maryland Veterinary Medical Association

Maryland Veterinary Medical Association l PO Box 5407 l Annapolis, MD 21403
phone: 410-268-1311 l fax: 410-268-1322

e-mail: MVMA@KeyAssnMgt.com