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Itching to Enjoy the Spring

Prevent fleas and ticks before they become a problem!

Shelton is home to a multiplicity of small, biting insects that annoy both humans and animals. The ones that most concern our furry friends are fleas and ticks. They are both endemic to the local area and even a short walk in your neighborhood or on the many local trails here in Shelton can result in you or your pet bringing home several unwanted ‘visitors’.

Fleas and ticks don’t just cause itchy skin, they can transmit disease. Ticks, especially, have the potential for transmitting more than a dozen serious diseases, including Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, Ehrlichiosis, to name a few. Additionally, many pets (and people) are allergic to flea or tick bites and this can cause uncomfortable rashes, resulting in swelling, skin infections and even loss of hair or fur. Fleas and ticks usually ride into your household on one of your furry family members, and, once there, they make themselves at home...and not just on your pets, but in your carpets, bedding, etc.! And remember, fleas are extremely prolific: it only takes a couple of fleas a short time to populate your house with their offspring!

The most important thing to know about fleas and ticks is that your pet can bring them home at any time of the year, not just during the warmer months, however, the spring brings a spike in flea and tick populations. Fleas and ticks are remarkably hardy creatures and use a variety of methods to survive between meals. Flea eggs have gestation periods anywhere from two to 200 days. Ticks can survive for up to year without eating. One of the most common types of tick in the Northeast is the deer tick. This tick is the one that carries Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease is a serious illness that can affect both pets and humans. Contrary to popular opinion, a hard winter will not kill these ticks. In fact, the population of deer ticks spikes in the spring and again in the fall. After walking in the woods or on the local trails, it is wise to check both yourself and your pet for ticks when you return home. It takes several hours of feeding for a tick to transmit a disease, so regularly checking for and removing ticks upon returning from a walk can help prevent serious illness for both you and your pet.

The next most important thing to know about fleas and ticks is that there is no one approach that can either prevent or cure a flea infestation when it occurs or prevent a tick from taking a tasty ride on your pet. While adult fleas and ticks feed on the blood of a host animal, they do not need to remain on the host animal to survive. In fact, as mentioned above, they can and do quite easily make their home in your carpet, upholstery and bedding. Flea larvae can make a meal out of the detritus found in your carpet and survive very long periods without a furry host.

The best form of prevention is the use of a high-quality flea and tick medication, applied regularly to your pet, which you can purchase right here in Shelton from or any of the local Shelton vets, including and Countryside Veterinary Hospital. A high-quality flea and tick medication will work most of the time. However, it is still possible for your pet to carry in an unwanted flea friend or two or to pick up a tick.

A multi-pronged approach is needed to rid your pets and home of fleas and ticks in the event that an infestation occurs. In the event of an infestation, take the following steps:

1. Give your pet a flea bath. Use a product that is appropriate for your pet. You should not use a canine flea bath on cats, for example, as the ingredients can be harmful to them. Follow the directions on the bottle to the letter. Most flea shampoos must remain on the pet for ten minutes in order to be effective.

  • Flea shampoos should never be used on pets under 12 weeks of age. For pets this young, you must use a flea comb to remove the fleas.
  • For really severe flea or tick infestations, it may be advisable to have your vet or groomer give your pet a flea dip. This process uses strong pesticides and is best administered by a professional. Doggie Styles Grooming Salon, located in the Shopping Plaza in Shelton, offers special flea dips and bath services.

2. Use a task-specific cleaning agent to clean all of your carpets and upholstery. There are several professional products on the market that are designed for this purpose. You can also use plain old borax. Just sprinkle it on your carpet and upholstery and then vacuum it off. The borax dries out the skin of adult fleas and their larvae and the eggs will be sucked up by the vacuum.

3. Wash all of your bedding in hot water. Use as much bleach as you can without ruining the fabric. Wash your pet’s bedding in the same way.

4. Apply a topical flea and tick treatment to your pet. The most effective ones are applied between the shoulder blades and are designed to kill both fleas and ticks, as well as their larvae and eggs, for up to 30 days. Flea collars and sprays have a limited effectiveness and are not the optimal way of preventing fleas and ticks.

5. A flea and tick preventative that can be taken in pill form has recently come on the market. It is only available through your vet. This is a good alternative for dogs that have very sensitive skin that may react to topical flea and tick medications.

6. Do not use more than one method of flea and tick prevention on your pet without
speaking to your vet about the overlapping properties and possible interactions between the insecticides contained in the various products. Remember, there are several great veterinary practices, based right here in Shelton (see above for links). The staff and vets at these practices would be more than happy to answer your questions and help you make the right decisions concerning flea and tick control for your pet.

With all of that in mind, you are probably thinking, “How can I tell if my pet has fleas or ticks?” Well, there are several signs to look for and several methods for performing the task.

The best time to look for fleas and ticks is while you are brushing your pet. Since, while brushing, you will be running your hands and the brush or comb though the pet’s coat, take the time to feel for ticks. When attached and feeding, ticks can grow quite large, so you will be able to feel them. Remove any ticks that you find, taking care to ensure that you don’t leave the head of the tick attached to the pet, as this can result in an infection. Fleas can be a little harder to spot. Look for small bits of reddish-brown flaky ‘dust’, especially around the ears and in the belly area. This ‘dust’ is actually flea droppings! Since fleas eat blood, their excreta has the color of dried blood. You may also spot the live critters running for cover as you brush your pet. They are very small, brown or black and move really fast. One final way of spotting a flea or tick infestation is to look for raised red bumps on your dog’s skin. These bumps are often the result of flea or tick bites.

Fleas and ticks are unwanted guests, whether on our pets or in our carpets. At a minimum, these pests can cause itching and discomfort, at worst, they can transmit serious diseases to both pets and humans. As the weather warms up and we and our pets spend more time outside, it pays to be vigilant. Taking a proactive approach will help you to keep your pet itch-free, minimize the risk of a flea infestation in your home and help to prevent you or your pet from contracting a tick related illness.

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