Is your cat pining to go outside? Or are you woken up by the sound of your dog scratching at the door to get out into the garden? Pets love being outside during the summer months – but, summer is also peak season for fleas and ticks, with late summer particularly high risk.
Anyone who's ever watched their beloved pet tormented by a tick or scratching themselves because they've got fleas will know that prevention is better than cure. So what should you do* to prevent an infestation, short of keeping your pets indoors all the time?
Applying flea and tick preventative medication every month throughout the summer is very important. Some people dislike the idea of dousing their pet in chemicals, but it's far safer to do so than deal with the consequences of an infestation. Ticks in particular carry dangerous diseases, so you don't want them anywhere near your cat or dog. Just make sure that you always use species-appropriate medication: never put dog flea treatment on a cat, for instance, as it could make them very ill and even kill them.
Secondly, it's important to create an inhospitable environment for these insects in your garden. If you have a lawn, mow it regularly (with one of the best lawnmowers) – both ticks and fleas thrive in long grass.
Next, keep rodents – and if you live in a rural area, deer – well away from your garden, as these animals carry both fleas and ticks. Don't put any food waste on your compost heap and ensure all bins are tightly closed. If you have seen rats in your garden or house, read our guide on how to get rid of rats.
And if your cat or dog has already got fleas or a tick? With fleas, the best thing to do is to apply medication as soon as you've spotted them in your pet's coat. We've tried bathing cats and dogs, and it will not get rid of all the fleas; they will just jump back on after bathing.
A tick is more serious, and you need to remove it with tweezers as soon as you see it. It won't be pretty (and, unfortunately for your pet, will hurt), but you have to rip out the whole insect. Afterwards, put it in a container and take it to your nearest vet for inspection. Disinfect the affected skin area. You will need to do a blood test a month after to make sure your pet hasn't become infected with a tick-transmitted disease. Don't do a blood test before this 30-day period, as it could come back as a false positive.
*Tips developed in consultation with The Pet Vet