Fleas, Ticks, and Hot Spots, Oh My!
Summer can be a difficult time for our furry friends and not just because of the heat. The summer months also come with an increase in the major skin irritants particularly for dogs but for cats as well. Fleas and ticks are not only itchy and uncomfortable for our pets, but they bring health risks with them as well. Ticks can carry Lyme disease and other contagions as can fleas. Fleas also tend to carry tapeworms which can end up in your pets’ digestive tract. Hot spots are usually caused by your dog itching or licking the same spot repeatedly and often fleas and ticks are the underlying cause of hot spots.
Protecting your pets from fleas, ticks and hotspots is no easy task during the warm summer months but here are a few steps you can take to get started:
1. Fortify Your Yard
The first step you can take to keep fleas and ticks off of your pets is to make your yard as inhospitable to them as possible. Make sure grass, trees, and shrubbery are trimmed back, and remove fallen leaves. Fleas and ticks like to be in overgrown areas where they have lots of places to hide. Also make sure you are not leaving any pet food or water dishes out at night which could attract feral, flea and tick carrying animals into your yard and spreading the pests to your pets.
2. Use Preventative Methods
When you come home from a walk or a trip to the dog park, run a flea comb through your dog’s fur a few times and remove any unwanted guests you may find. Submerging fleas and their eggs in warm, soapy water kills them. You can also try using an over the counter medication or flea collar to help prevent any hitchhikers from taking up residence on your furry friends. If you prefer a more natural approach, try bathing your pet in apple cider vinegar. This won’t kill fleas, but they don’t like the taste and smell of it, so it can drive them away.
3. Keep Your Home Clean
While the presence of fleas and ticks on your pet is not necessarily an indicator that your home is dirty, there are steps you can take to keep the pests out of your home. Vacuum carpeted areas and furniture regularly as flea larvae tend to live in carpeted, plush environments. If you are concerned that fleas or flea eggs are living in your carpet, sprinkle some borax on your carpet, leave it down for about an hour, and then vacuum it up; any fleas or eggs in the carpet will die. Also remember to change your vacuum bags regularly to prevent any critters living in there.
4. Dealing With Hotspots
Hotspots are caused by a variety of factors and you should consult your vet about what could be causing your dog's’ hot spots before doing anything else. Hot spots are often an indication of an allergic response to flea bites or other irritants. They are itchy, painful, and stressful for your dog. They most often occur on the head, hips, or chest. Keeping your dog clean and well-groomed is a great first step in preventing hot spots. When you can, interrupt compulsive itching in the same spot to keep your dog from developing a hotspot. Finally, try to determine what your dog may have been exposed to that has triggered the itching, and consult with your vet about what steps to take next.
This summer, we can be diligent to protect our pets’ comfort and dermatological health by keeping them, our yards and homes clean and unfriendly to fleas and ticks. Be aware of what your pet may be exposed to this summer and be prepared to take appropriate precautions.