When Jennifer Paterno of Belleville, N.J., learned that her 8-month-old Labrador retriever mix had let herself out of their new home and slipped a neighbor's grip on a frigid day last January, she did what experts advise panicked pet owners to do: She got busy, fast.
Paterno quickly made and distributed flyers with Jersey's photo and identifying information to area businesses, local police departments, and shelters. She posted notices on her Facebook page and on various online lost-and-found pets...
These four steps can help you make your home less inviting to these little bloodsuckers. Some of them start even before you walk through the front door.
1. Troubleshoot Your Yard.
The first line of defense is keeping fleas and ticks from setting up housekeeping on your property.
If you live in a home with a yard, that means keeping your grass mowed and shrubs trimmed back. This simple landscaping move is the opposite of curb appeal to fleas and ticks, because they have less place to hide.
Next, discourage feral pets and wildlife from coming into your yard and bringing their fleas with them. Opossums, raccoons, and feral cats are the worst offenders. Don't invite these critters by leaving bowls of dog or cat food outside.
Trim back any trees and high shrubs that could let wild animals crawl into your attic. Seal off any openings to crawl spaces, garages, sheds, or under decks, where wild animals or stray dogs or cats could nest, says, Michael K. Rust, PhD, a professor of entomology at the University of California, Riverside.
When planting shrubs, keep them away from your house and each other. “Any time you have air movement and sunlight it will kill flea larvae,” Rust says.
You can also find effective yard flea sprays at your local hardware store.
2. Practice Prevention.
Many pet owners use spot-on flea and tick treatments on their pets.
When they come home, run a flea comb or brush through your pet’s coat before going inside, reducing the number of pests it carries.
Do you have a long-haired pet? It's easier for pests to hide there. So consider having your pet shaved down for the summer, making it easier to spot problems.
3. Keep Your Home Clean.
Having fleas and ticks in your house doesn't mean your home is dirty. But if you pay careful attention to certain areas, you can make pests less welcome. The tree stages of immature fleas (flea eggs, larvae, and pupae) often live in carpeting or throw rugs. So vacuum at least once a week, and more often if you spot fleas.