The best way for pet owners to avoid flea and tick problems is to use oral medications and clean their homes regularly to thoroughly remove flea larvae and eggs. We encourage veterinarians and other animal care professionals to share these recommendations with their clients1,2,3:
1. Speak to your vet about oral medications to protect pets against fleas, ticks, and other parasites
- Work with your veterinarian to select appropriate oral medications to protect your pets. Some chewable oral medications protect against ticks and other parasites like hookworms, roundworms, and/or heartworms, in addition to fleas.
- If additional topical flea control is needed, consider using flea shampoos or dips that contain pyrethrins. Pyrethrins, not to be confused with pyrethroids, are much less toxic than other flea shampoo chemicals and they decompose quickly.
2. Avoid products that contain toxic chemicals
- Avoid using external or topical flea and tick treatments to avoid exposing your pets and family to toxic chemicals. Topical collars and spot products can transport pesticides onto hands, clothing, and other indoor surfaces around your home.
- Avoid house sprays, foggers and house “bombs.” These items have limited effectiveness and lingering residue transfers to objects, pets, and occupants, even when used as directed.
- Avoid treatments containing chemicals that are highly toxic and persist in the environment, including fipronil, indoxacarb, imidacloprid, bifenthrin, deltamethrin, and permethrin
3. Clean your home regularly and thoroughly to prevent flea problems before they start
- Vacuum carpets, floors, furniture, and inside cracks and reduce clutter around your home to improve the effectiveness of vacuuming and dusting. If you are able, consider replacing carpets with hardwood floors.
- Wash pet bedding and other fabrics that pets touch regularly, including human bedding.
- Use flea combs. Dip the comb frequently into soapy water to capture and drown fleas.
- Use flea traps to help determine the size and location of the infestation. You can make your own flea trap by putting soapy water in a shallow baking tray and leaving it in a room overnight with a small lamp aimed at it. The fleas will be attracted to the light, and results will be visible in the morning.
4. Avoid ticks attaching to you or your dog:
- If possible, keep your dog’s coat short.
- Try to keep out of the brush. Seek to walk in the center of trails and use shorter leashes when walking in the woods or grassy areas.
- Thoroughly inspect your pet after walks before ticks have time to attach. Pay particular attention to the nose, mouth, eyes, ears (inside too), around tails and under the collar. Inspect yourself and your gear as well.
- Seek to create a tick-free zone in your yard, controlling brush or tall grass. Consider providing a 3-foot wide barrier (e.g., wood chips or gravel) between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick movement. Keep play and deck equipment away from yard edges. Keep outside areas neat to discourage rodents or other wildlife.
5. If a tick has bitten your dog,
If a tick has bitten your dog, remove it as soon as possible and watch your dog for symptoms of a tick-borne illness such as lethargy, lameness, loss of appetite, vomiting (for additional insight on symptoms and treatment, see the AKC Canine Health Foundation).
- The duration of tick attachment required for disease transmission varies. In addition diseases can be transmitted when dogs ingest either living or dead ticks. Learn how to properly remove ticks.
- Consider keeping the tick: You many want to provide the tick to your veterinarian so it can be tested for disease. Consider submitting the tick to your public health department / vector control or to showusyourticks.org, an organization providing testing of ticks nationally.
6. Dispose of unused pet medication safely
- Never flush old, unused pet medication! Instead, use the Earth911 Search Engine to find a safe disposal location near you.
1 Halos, L. et al. 2014. Flea Control Failure? Myths and Realities. Trends in Parasitology, 30:5 228-233.
2 Blagburn, B., and Dryden, M., Biology, Treatment, and Control of Flea and Tick Infestations, Vet Clin Small Anim, 2009, Vol 39, pp 1173-1200.
3 American Veterinary Medical Association, “External Parasites” brochure from AVMA web site, lasted updated December 2009.