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Healthy Pets

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Safety Tips for Using Flea and Tick Products

Got a dog? It’s time to brush up on ways to keep ticks and fleas -- and the nasty diseases they spread -- away from him.

These pests can make both of you sick and uncomfortable. Plenty of products can keep them at bay, but you need to know how to use them safely.

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Taking Your Dog on a Road Trip

It wouldn't be a family car trip without Fido, but if you want everyone who's along for the ride -- two-legged and four-legged -- to have fun, you need to do some prep work. "People just jump in the car and think they are prepared," says animal behaviorist Kristen Collins, MS, CPDT, with the ASPCA Animal Behavior Center. "But preparation needs to start as far in advance as you know you are going on a trip."

Read the Taking Your Dog on a Road Trip article > >

When to Take Action

When should you treat your dog with flea or tick products? It depends on where you live.

Fleas are worst during warm-weather months, but they can live inside your home all year long. Spring and summer are usually the heaviest time for ticks. But they, too, can live year-round in some parts of the U.S.

If you see signs of these pests on your pet, treat them right away. Otherwise, start treatment at the beginning of flea or tick season.

Types of Prevention

A number of flea treatments are on the market. Some also prevent ticks or other pests.

The most popular products are pills and the ''spot-on'' treatments that go onto your dog’s skin between his shoulder blades. They work well and are easy to apply. Other products come in the form of dips, shampoos, collars, foggers, and sprays.

Safety Guidelines

1. Check with your vet before you use any flea or tick product. This is key if your dog is:

  • Taking other drugs
  • Old
  • Sick
  • A puppy
  • Pregnant or nursing
  • Allergic to flea products

In these cases, the vet might suggest you use a special comb to pick up fleas, eggs, and ticks. Then drown the pests in hot, soapy water.

2. Follow instructions. Don’t use dog products on a cat, as this could be deadly. Only apply the amount needed for the size of your pet. Never double up on products. There’s no need to pair a powder with a spot-on treatment.

3. Wear gloves, or wash your hands with soap and water after you apply the drug. Follow the instructions for proper storage and disposal of packaging.

4. Keep pets separated while the product dries. You don’t want them to groom each other and swallow the chemicals.

5. Watch for signs of a reaction, especially if it’s the first time you’re using the product. Call your vet if your dog has symptoms like:

  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • A lot of drooling
  • Depression

If your dog has a bad reaction, bathe him right away with soap and water. Follow any instructions from the package insert. Call your vet and report problems to the National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378.

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