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Quiz: The Truth About Fleas and Ticks

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brown dog tick

Fleas are harmless.

brown dog tick

Fleas are harmless.

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Those tiny, wingless insects that feed on blood can cause more than itching and irritation: They also can carry bacteria, host tapeworms, and cause skin allergies. Fleas can eat 15 times their own body weight in blood daily. That can lead to anemia. Fleas are most dangerous to puppies, kittens, and older animals.

brown dog tick

Which could be a sign that your pet has fleas?

brown dog tick

Which could be a sign that your pet has fleas?

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If your pet has fleas, he'll probably scratch, lick, or bite at his skin. Your furry friend might also have pale gums, hair loss, and areas on his coat that are red and irritated. Comb through your pet's fur. If you see small, fast-moving shapes, your pet has fleas. Black spots are "flea dirt," or dried blood left by the critters. Tiny white grains on the fur could be eggs.

brown dog tick

You can find out if your home has a flea problem by wearing white socks.

brown dog tick

You can find out if your home has a flea problem by wearing white socks.

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If you think your home has a flea problem, try this: Put on a pair of white socks and pull them up to your knees, and then walk where your pet sleeps, rests, and eats. Fleas, attracted to the warmth and movement as you walk, will latch onto your feet and ankles. It will be easy to see their dark bodies against the white socks.

brown dog tick

Why are fleas hard to get rid of?

brown dog tick

Why are fleas hard to get rid of?

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Fleas reproduce quickly, and for every one you see bugging your pet, there are more that you can't see. A female flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. Eggs drop off your pet and into bedding and carpet. Also, fleas go into cocoons before they become adults. Those cocoons protect them from insecticides.

brown dog tick

Bathing your pet with dishwashing liquid gets rid of fleas.

brown dog tick

Bathing your pet with dishwashing liquid gets rid of fleas.

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Save dishwashing liquid for your pots and pans; bathing your pet in it isn't proven to kill fleas. Using a flea shampoo will kill fleas on your pet's body and get rid of dried blood and skin flakes that flea larvae feed on. If fleas are in the area, they will jump back onto your pet.

brown dog tick

Spraying your yard with worms reduces the number of fleas.

brown dog tick

Spraying your yard with worms reduces the number of fleas.

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Tiny worms, called nematodes, applied as a spray kill flea larvae that might be hiding in your yard. Fleas favor dark, moist, shady areas outside. Nematodes enter fleas' bodies and release harmful germs but are safe for people, pets, and plants. Follow the instructions on the label. Water the area before and after you spray.

brown dog tick

Ticks get on pets and people by:

brown dog tick

Ticks get on pets and people by:

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Ticks can't fly or jump. They are more like spiders and scorpions than insects. But they climb grasses and shrubs to get near animals or people walking by. Ticks can be hard to see until they have bitten your pet and swell with blood. Ticks often attach themselves close to an animal's head, neck, ears, and feet but can latch on anywhere.

brown dog tick

If you find a tick, burn it off with a match.

brown dog tick

If you find a tick, burn it off with a match.

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If you see a tick, use tweezers to grasp it firmly, as close to the skin as you can get, and pull it straight out. Be firm but gentle. Don't twist or jerk the tick. If you don't have tweezers, use a tissue or a piece of cloth. Burning the tick with a match or covering it with nail polish might make it release saliva, which could be harmful. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other illnesses.

brown dog tick

What time of year are ticks most active?

brown dog tick

What time of year are ticks most active?

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Your poor pet can't really catch a break. Ticks are usually active in the spring, summer, and fall. With some species, adult ticks also are active in the winter. If a tick can't find a person or animal to feed on by fall, most types will hide until spring.

brown dog tick

Ticks live only in forests and woods.

brown dog tick

Ticks live only in forests and woods.

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Ticks like moist woodlands, forest trails, and grassy fields where they can easily attach to animals, birds, and lizards. But they also like campgrounds, neglected grassy yards, and areas near power line routes made through forests. If you're on a road trip with your pet, you should know that ticks can lurk in tall grass at interstate rest stops where pets walk and run.

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