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Naturally Treat and Prevent Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks can be a significant nuisance for pets and their owners, especially during the high season in North Carolina, which typically spans from late spring to early fall. These pests not only cause discomfort but can also transmit various diseases to pets and humans. Using natural methods to prevent and treat fleas and ticks can be an effective and environmentally friendly approach. Here’s how you can keep your pets and home flea- and tick-free using natural remedies.

Understanding Fleas and Ticks in North Carolina

North Carolina’s warm and humid climate creates an ideal environment for fleas and ticks to thrive. These pests are most active in temperatures between 70-85°F with high humidity. Common flea species include the cat flea, which infests cats, dogs, and other animals. Ticks in North Carolina include the American dog tick, the black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick), and the lone star tick, all of which can carry diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

How to Check your Pet for Fleas

  1. Visual Inspection:

  • Look for Adult Fleas: These tiny, fast-moving insects are typically brown and can be seen moving through your pet’s fur.

  • Flea Dirt: Flea dirt looks like small black pepper flakes on your pet's skin. You can confirm it's flea dirt by placing some on a damp paper towel—if it turns reddish-brown, it's flea dirt (dried blood).

  1. Use a Flea Comb:

  • Comb Thoroughly: Use a fine-toothed flea comb, especially around the neck, behind the ears, and near the tail where fleas are most commonly found.

  • Inspect the Comb: Check the comb for fleas or flea dirt. Keep a bowl of soapy water nearby to dip the comb and kill any fleas you find.

How to Check your Pet for Ticks

  1. Feel for Bumps:

  • Run Your Hands Over Your Pet’s Body: Slowly and thoroughly run your hands over your pet's entire body. Ticks can feel like small bumps on the skin.

  1. Inspect Common Hiding Spots:

  • Focus on Specific Areas: Ticks prefer warm, hidden areas. Pay close attention to the following spots:

  • Inside and around the ears

  • Around the eyes

  • Under the collar

  • Between the toes

  • Around the tail

  • Under the front legs (armpits)

  • Groin area

  1. Use a Tick Removal Tool:

  • If You Find a Tick: Use a tick removal tool or a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting or jerking, which can cause parts of the tick to break off and remain in the skin.

Post-Inspection Care

  1. Dispose of Fleas and Ticks Properly:

  • Fleas: Dip the flea comb in soapy water to drown the fleas.

  • Ticks: After removing a tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Place the tick in a sealed bag or container and dispose of it properly.

  1. Monitor for Symptoms:

  • Watch for Signs of Infection: After removing fleas or ticks, keep an eye on the affected areas for signs of infection or irritation. If your pet shows any unusual symptoms, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or swelling, consult your veterinarian.

Prevention Strategies

1. Keep Your Yard Tidy Maintaining your yard is crucial in preventing fleas and ticks:

  • Mow the Lawn Regularly: Short grass reduces hiding spots for ticks.

  • Remove Debris: Clear away leaf litter, tall grasses, and brush around your home and at the edge of your lawn.

  • Create a Barrier: Place a 3-foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn and wooded areas to prevent tick migration.

  • Fencing: Install fences to keep out wildlife that can carry ticks into your yard.

2. Natural Flea and Tick Repellents for Pets Using natural repellents can effectively keep these pests at bay:

  • Essential Oils: Diluted essential oils such as eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, and cedarwood can be sprayed on your pet’s fur. Always consult a veterinarian before use, as some oils can be toxic to pets.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your pet’s water bowl to make their skin less appealing to fleas and ticks.

  • Herbal Flea Collars: Make a DIY herbal flea collar by infusing a bandana with a few drops of essential oil diluted with water.

3. Regular Grooming and Inspection At-Home: Regular grooming helps in early detection and removal of fleas and ticks:

  • Brushing: Brush your pet with a flea comb daily, especially after outdoor activities.

  • Bathing: Use natural flea and tick shampoos containing ingredients like neem oil or citrus extracts (use as directed to avoid irritating your pet's skin).

  • Check for ticks after walks or playtime in the yard. Thoroughly check your pet’s body, focusing on hidden areas like armpits, groin, and behind the ears.

Natural Treatment Methods

1. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) DE is a non-toxic powder made from fossilized algae that can kill fleas and ticks:

  • Application: Sprinkle food-grade DE on carpets, pet bedding, and outdoor areas. Leave it for a few hours or overnight, then vacuum thoroughly.

  • Caution: Ensure the DE is food-grade and handle it carefully to avoid inhalation.

2. Lemon Spray Lemon is a natural flea repellent:

  • Preparation: Boil a sliced lemon in water, let it steep overnight, and pour the liquid into a spray bottle.

  • Application: Spray your pet’s coat (avoiding the eyes) and areas where fleas are present.

3. Nematodes Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that feed on flea larvae:

  • Application: Purchase nematodes from a garden center and apply them to your yard. They will naturally reduce the flea population.

Maintaining a Clean Home

1. Vacuuming Regular vacuuming can remove fleas and their eggs from carpets and upholstery:

  • Frequency: Vacuum daily during peak flea season.

  • Disposal: Immediately dispose of the vacuum bag or empty the canister into a sealed plastic bag and take it outside.

2. Washing Bedding Wash your pet’s bedding and your own linens regularly in hot water to kill fleas and eggs:

  • Frequency: At least once a week.

3. Use Natural Insecticides Certain natural products can help control fleas and ticks indoors:

  • Boric Acid: Lightly sprinkle boric acid on carpets and furniture, let it sit for a few hours, then vacuum.

  • Cedar Oil: Spray diluted cedar oil around the house to repel fleas and ticks.

A man and his dog outdoors

Preventing and treating fleas and ticks naturally in North Carolina during high season requires consistent effort and a combination of methods. You can effectively manage these pests by maintaining a clean yard and home, using natural repellents, and regularly inspecting and grooming your pets without resorting to harsh chemicals. Always consult with your veterinarian before trying new treatments to ensure they are safe for your pets.

If you suspect your home and pet are the victims of a flea infestation, seek the care of a veterinarian. Be careful not to expose other pet families by allowing your pets to engage with others in public settings such as parks, yards, stores, grooming and boarding facilities, etc.

Want to keep your pet's coat short and tidy in the heat of summer?

We can help! At MOSA, our staff is highly trained and experienced in working with unique pet clients.

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