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Dog Ticks and Fleas Q&A

WebMD veterinary experts answer commonly asked questions about fleas and ticks on your dog.
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Q:  What are the best ways to control fleas and ticks?

A: Besides the flea products we’ve discussed, if you have a cat, don’t ever let it go outside. Try to keep your home as dry as possible. I would recommend not having any carpet because carpet is a flea’s best friend. Keep the brush and weeds in your yard to an absolute minimum.

Q:  Are there natural ways I can control them if I don’t want to use chemicals?

A: There really aren’t from a natural standpoint. Over the years, we’ve spent some time looking into the more natural or holistic approaches and as yet I’ve not found any that’s actually effective. The garlic, the brewer’s yeast, all the research shows none of that stuff works. If it did, I’d be using it. The ultrasonic devices? The data shows they don’t work.

And just because something is “natural” or “organic” that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Most of the poisons in the world are actually organic poisons. Some of these citric extracts people used to use can be fairly toxic to cats. The cats’ livers just can’t handle them.

There is diatomacious earth, which is basically microscopic silicone particles that can be spread around in your carpet. They scratch or excoriate the flea larvae. But you’ve got to be a little careful. You don’t want to inhale the stuff, because now you’ve inhaled silicone particles into your lungs and where’s that going to go? There are pesticide control firms that apply that stuff appropriately, and when they do it’s very effective and it’s safe. But just make sure if you have somebody do it in your house it’s done appropriately. It’s a very good larvacidal and a flea preventive measure if it’s done correctly.

Q:  How can I control fleas and ticks in my yard?

A: Cut the tall grass, trim back the bushes and shrubs, then rake up all the leaf litter under the bushes. Leave it just bare ground. There are some lawn and garden insecticides that are approved by the EPA to be applied under shrubs, under bushes, in crawl spaces, along fence lines, to control fleas and ticks outside. The big issue I see is people tend to go out and start spraying their grass. That’s not effective and it’s certainly not good for the environment. Fleas and ticks are really sunlight and humidity sensitive. Most situations where we find them are under shrubs, under bushes, under porches, in shaded, protected habitats. So we should only be applying those compounds in a limited fashion under those locations. Then we’re going to let it dry on the foliage for three to four hours before we allow our pets and our children back out there.

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Reviewed on April 29, 2012
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