Tips For Pet Owners To Reduce Tick And Flea Infestations

Lt. Matt Swain removes ticks from a puppy at a temporary veterinary clinic. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric C. Tretter/Released)
It's not just your imagination. The tiny, blood-sucking pests are causing big problems for some pet owners here in Houston. But there are proven ways to get them off your animal and out of your home.

Ticks love moisture, warmth, shade and lots of organic debris. In Houston, that means our conditions are prime.

Dr Zachary Clarke is a veterinarian at Stafford Oaks Animal Hospital west of Houston.

"The Houston area is an endemic area for fleas and for ticks both, especially when summertime rolls around. The weather warms up; they really start coming out. We see a lot more of them. We can look at a dog or a cat, and tell if we've got fleas or ticks. Usually we can find the actual bugs on them. Ticks are a lot better at hiding than fleas are, so sometimes they're a little bit tougher to find."

By the nature of their behavior, ticks settle in places that make them hard to detect.

"They tend to like to get into cracks and crevasses, down maybe in between the toes, up around the ears, and they attach and they don't really move around, once they attach. So they're just right there. If you don't look close, you might even think it's just like a little mole or a bump or a scab or something like that, but it's really a tick. And so, you've got to a little bit closer to find ticks."

Clark says ticks feast for a few days on your pet's blood, and removing them becomes a challenge. Experts recommend touching the tick with a hot needle, alcohol, turpentine or kerosene to relax the mouth of the tick before careful removal with tweezers.

"If we're not already, we want to get on a flea and tick preventative product. There's lots of them out there, to try and kill any fleas and ticks that get on to the pet. Equally as important as treating fleas and ticks on the pet itself is treating them in the environment, and exterminators are the guys to talk to about that."

Bill Barbin with Better Pest Management in Missouri City says removing ticks from a home is an involved process.

"Number one, we would recommend an interior treatment and your backyard to be treated also. If your grass is tall, we recommend that you cut it, so we can treat that area accordingly. Any bedded areas where the animal has been spending, we would suggest that you take those and either wash them or discard those, and in doing so, we don't want a lot of items laying all on the floor."

Barbin says exterminators use products approved by the EPA that includes a spray for the outside perimeter of the house. A combination of a spray and pesticide dust is used inside, followed by a fogger to thoroughly disinfect the rest of the home.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...