Flea and Tick Season: What to Use When
Fido and Fluffy are scratching again, but you don’t have to douse your pet with anything you don't approve of, nor do you have to apply flea and tick remedies when they are not needed. Here are some natural solutions to both repel and kill these pesky critters, along with a flea and tick map to guide you in knowing when to bring out the guns.
Where the Fleas Are
Sadly, they are everywhere, but the most live where the weather is hot and steamy, with lows of 65 degrees and highs in the 80s and up. Cooler areas of the country with average temperatures of 40 degrees have the shortest flea seasons, with mid-range weather of between 40 and 64 degrees carrying a medium threat for fleas.
Unless you live in Siberia, where insects are frozen most of the time, fleas will be part of your pet’s life. Check out this Flea Activity Finder from The Weather Channel to find out the risk level for your particular area.
When to Treat for Fleas
Southern dogs and cats need year-round protection, since only spring breakers take vacations in these parts. In more temperate climates, it’s a good idea to get a head start on flea season by beginning treatment a month or two before they are in full force. Usually the arrival of spring is an ideal time to start protecting your pet from its tormenters.
Ticks Have No Off-Season
Unfortunately for your pet, ticks never take any time off – they are always around and ready to attach. Besides the painful bites and sometimes difficult removal, ticks also carry serious diseases that can affect both animals and humans. Year-round protection is crucial for pets who spend any amount of time outdoors.
Tick Types and Locations
The area of the country where you live or visit determines the type of tick lurking in hopes of infecting your pet.
On the West Coast, the brown dog tick causes ehrlichiosis, a disease that attacks blood cells and can be fatal; the American dog tick carries Rocky Mountain spotted fever as well as causes paralysis; and deer ticks are responsible for Lyme disease. Some places, like California, are hotbeds for all three types.
In Southern and East Coast areas, where ticks love the weather and are plentiful, the deer tick, American dog tick, brown dog tick, and the Lone Star tick (which also carries Rocky Mountain spotted fever) are waiting to make a meal out of your pet.
Best Natural Flea Killer
If your pet is infested with fleas, the ingredient diatomaceous earth is an easy way to kill them all in one fell swoop. Just rub this powder into your pet’s fur and within a few minutes, the fleas will all be dead. Seriously, it really is that easy. Then apply the natural repellant diligently and if Fluffy and Fido start scratching again, powder them up again. Diatomaceous earth can be rubbed into your carpet and sprinkled on your lawn without harming animals or humans.
The Tick-Removal Debate
For years, the masses have claimed that if you touch the visible part of a tick with the smoldering head of a match, it will jump out in surprise. The problem with that theory is that the burn actually kills the tick and can leave its mouth, with disease-riddled saliva, in your pet to cause sickness or worse. So you’re only solving half the problem while leaving the dangerous half imbedded.
Most veterinarians recommend using tick-specific tweezers, gently grabbing hold of the tick’s rear end, and slowly easing it out with a twisting motion. While this may remove most of the tick, it doesn’t guarantee complete removal, especially with tick types that secret a cement-like substance to literally glue them into your pet. Again, the most dangerous part is left behind.
Fortunately, there is a way to get the whole tick out and not leave any behind, plus you’ll get a nice clean spot on the skin as a bonus. Soak a cotton ball with some liquid soap and swab the exposed part of the tick a few times with it. Then hold the soaked cotton ball on the tick so they are touching. Within 15 seconds, the tick will dislodge itself and come away from the skin, attached to the cotton ball. Rinse the spot with some hydrogen peroxide to kill any remaining germs.
Image: Lee Haywood / via Flickr