National Heartworm Awareness Month: Tips for Keeping Pets Parasite Free

heartwormawarenessApril is National Heartworm Awareness Month, Spring is here and so are the bugs. Every year it is a challenge to keep them off our pets and out of our homes. Recently, we spoke with veterinarian, Dr Katy Nelson about the prevalence, risks and prevention tactics we can deploy to keep our pets pest-free in the coming summer months.

We hate to say it… however, chances are, if you find a tick or flea on your pet, the likelihood of them being in your home is quite large… In this case, simply treating your pet won’t rid the problem entirely, because you risk re-infestation until pests are fully eradicated.

Here are some helpful tips to avoid critter infestations in the coming months…

  • Yes, it is a good idea to do this every day to remove eggs, larvae and adults. Vacuuming is one of the easiest ways to prevent tick and flea infestations in your house.
  • Don’t Forget! Be sure to vacuum everything – carpets, inside couches and under chair cushions, carper runners, bath mats and along baseboards!

Steam clean carpets:

  • The hot steam and soap kills fleas in all stages of the life cycle.
  • Steam clean extra carefully where pets sleep.

Buy products treated with Permethrin

  • Consider the purchase of pet beds, bandanas, car seat covers, blankets and more that are treated with Permethrin, such as Insect Shield for Pets
  • If your pet bedding is not treated be sure to wash it regularly (also your family bedding on which pets lie.) Wash in hot, soapy water often. (at least every 2 weeks)
  • If an infestation is severe, discard old pet bedding and replace it with fresh, clean material.

Create Tick Safe Zones in Landscaping
Modify your landscape to create Tick Safe Zones

  • You can make your yard less attractive to ticks depending on how you landscape.

Here are some simple landscaping techniques that can help reduce tick populations:

  • Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
  • Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
  • Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.
  • Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed on).
  • Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees and place them in a sunny location, if possible.
  • Remove any old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.
    (Tips courtesy of the CDC website)

Check Pets for ticks and Fleas

  • Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.
  • Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed on).
  • Comb: Some adult ticks can be visible to the naked eye – but others can be as small as a poppy seed! So you might be able to find some on pets with shorter hair. For long haired pets it helps to use a comb. Use the comb along your pet’s belly and back. If you find fleas or ticks, immediately get rid of them in soapy water you will have nearby, at-the-ready!
  • Itching: In some cases it will be abundantly clear that your pet has fleas or ticks due to incessant scratching.
  • Tick Mat: When checking for fleas and ticks, it helps to put them on a white sheet, towel or mat to see if any fall off.

Always be sure to carefully follow the instructions when using tick and flea protective products…

Dr. Katy is an associate veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre, as well as host and executive producer of “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy” on Washington DC’s News Channel 8. She’s reports on animal health topics for Washington DC’s All News Radio Station, WTOP News as well as on camera for WJLA ABC 7 News.  She is the Medical Director of Pet Health for Stop Aging Now, Medical Director of Pet Health for BioStem Logics and the Proprietor of KJN Pet Marketing.  She has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, Fox and Friends, The Meredith Vieira Show, CNBC’s PowerPitch, HuffPost Live, to name a few, and is the expert for the second season of the popular show “Unlikely Animal Friends” to air this spring on NatGeo Wild.  She is a frequent contributor to HuffPost Pets, BarkPost and PetMD and you can also read “Ask Dr. Katy” quarterly in the Virginia-Maryland-DC Dog Magazine, or online.  Dr. Katy has been a small animal veterinarian for 15 years, and is a proud graduate of the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.  In her spare time she is an avid traveler, athlete, wife, rescue proponent, and proud mom to three four-leggers and two two-leggers.

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