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Wheeler: Flea and tick medicine is not just for summertime

POSTED: October 5, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Now that we are in October and leaves are beginning to change, I can finally say it is beginning to feel more like fall. The change in the weather is good for the spirit after a long, hot summer.

Even though we are getting a nice break in the weather, it does not mean we need to take a break from giving our dogs and cats protection from fleas.

Here in the South, we definitely have our share of relatively cold weather. I remember one morning in Ellijay, I awoke to a low of 2 degrees F. I didn’t think any part of Georgia could get that cold.

However, regardless of how cold it gets, fleas still are able to survive and will become active on warm days. We just do not experience enough sustained cold to really keep them at bay.

Flea control is really something that needs multiple approaches.

One thing that was a ritual at my parents’ house growing up was getting all of the leaves out of the backyard where our springers had access. By getting all of the leaves off the ground, you reduce hiding places the fleas would find protection from the weather.

Once you have all the leaves gathered, remember to compost them so you have great organic matter to work with the following spring and summer.

Keep brushy areas in your yard maintained and your grass cut in order to reduce hiding places as well. Be sure to concentrate on areas where your pets like to hang out or sleep.

Vegetation management and chemical treatments do not have to happen across the entire property, only in these areas that are popular with your pets.

Treating your pets with some kind of flea control is next approach. There are many ways to control fleas, from baths and dips to flea collars. But the advent of topical flea control medicines that are applied on the neck or down the back of the animal has made flea control so much easier.

There are many brands of these with different insecticides. There are some that allow you to control for heartworm at the same time. Heartworm is another creature that does not take a break just because the calendar says it is winter.

When trying to figure out what treatment option to use, consult your veterinarian about which one would be best for you and your pet. Some treatments are more effective than others. Some can be more toxic than others. Some can be very expensive.

All of these things need to be considered for the health of your pet and family before you use them. My philosophy is to use the most effective treatment you can afford that is the least toxic to your pet.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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