Flea & tick prevention: 4 steps you can take to protect your pet now.

The majority of the U.S. experienced a mild winter this year, which means both good news and bad news for pet owners.

The good news is that with warmer weather you and your pets are able to spend more time outdoors.  And, let’s face it a warm spring or summer day outside is one of the best ways to spend time with your pet.  A warm spring and summer means you and your pet have more opportunities to spend time enjoying the outdoors…right?

Well, not so fast…the bad news is that the mild winter means a brutal spring and summer for fleas and ticks.  Veterinarians are already predicting 2012 will be a bad year for these pests because of the mild weather we’re having now.  In fact, some pest control experts are claiming we’re actually about four weeks ahead of schedule for flea and tick season this year.

So, what can you do now to prevent flea and tick problems from disrupting you and your pets’ lives in 2012?  Here are four tips to a happier and healthier summer for pets and their owners.

An ounce of prevention…

The most important thing is being proactive.  Checking your pet regularly year-round is the best way to stay on top of your pet’s health when it comes to fleas and ticks.  Inspect your pet’s coat and skin after a walk or after any extended time outdoors.

Taking a little bit of extra time to thoroughly look through your pet’s fur now is a small price to pay considering a flea or tick problem exposes your pet to all sorts of nasty diseases and other problems for them and for your wallet.

Another popular prevention tactic is to apply yard and kennel sprays before you have a problem.  With reports that flea and tick season will come early this year, this might be something to consider when starting your spring yard maintenance.  You may also want to speak to your veterinarian about when to begin your flea and tick regimen.

Use a comb or a brush

Most pets love getting brushed and brushing your pet does more than just help maintain their coats in between trips to the groomer.  Brushing your pet regularly is also a great opportunity to check for tiny pests like fleas and ticks that could be lurking around and causing problems.

There are many different types of grooming combs and brushes depending on your pet’s coat that help keep their coat healthy and allow you to spot potential critter problems before they start.  If you do notice signs of a potential problem, special flea combs are designed to remove fine debris such as fleas and their eggs.

Know what to look for

Fleas are tiny little insects usually about 1-4 mm long.  They are typically dark brown or reddish-brown and appear to have flat bodies without wings.  If it looks like someone has sprinkled black pepper on your pet’s skin, it is likely that you may have a flea problem on your hands.  You can use a flea comb to go through your pet’s coat and collect some of the black specks you’ve found.  Then, shake the comb over a white surface such as a paper towel or piece of printer paper.  Finally, add water and if the black specks dissolve and turn to red it is probably flea dirt, which means fleas have already settled in.

Ticks are tiny bugs with eight legs and can at times closely resemble a spider.  Ticks are dangerous because they feed on the blood of animals (even humans), often spreading dangerous diseases and illnesses such as Lyme disease.  They can typically be found on leaves or branches allowing them to attach to a host as the host brushes against them.

Know what to do if fleas or ticks are spotted

The first thing to do if you think your pet may have a flea or tick problem is to consult with your veterinarian.  They will be able to properly diagnose how severe the infestation is and recommend a safe treatment approach.

There are also several products on the market available without a prescription to treat your pet as well as your home.  These include topical treatments, yard and kennel spraysshampoosfoggers, and flea & tick sprays.

Popular topical treatments include: FrontlineFrontline PlusAdvantageK9 AdvantixBio SpotFiproGuard and FriproGuard PLUS, FiproGuard Max and Sentry.

Remember, the best treatment is to prevent a problem from happening in the first place.  By simply being aware of where your pet has been and giving them a quick check if they have been outdoors can save you a lot of trouble and money.

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