Commonly thought of as a summer-only threat, animals are susceptible to fleas and ticks throughout most of the year. Regular checkups, taking preventative measures and proper treatments are key to keeping these pesky critters at bay. Here are some tips for keeping your pet happy and healthy:

Prevention — stop them before they start. Prevention is key, so have your pet tested by your veterinarian regularly (at least once a year) for parasites. Your vet will be able to recommend the best year-round preventive medications. Properly and consistently administering these can control both internal and external parasites and protect your pets and family. To help keep your pet healthy, make sure you book annual checkups to help avoid bigger health issues and extra costs.

Detection — find the fleas. Concerned your pet may already be paws-deep in parasites? Know what to look for to be sure. Fleas are dark or reddish brown bugs with flat bodies. Flea bites create raised red spots that are extremely itchy. If you’re suspicious of fleas, be on the lookout for black particles the size of ground pepper on your pet’s skin near the tail. Another sign is flea larvae or waste in or around areas your pet frequents, like dog houses, kennels and beds.

Treatment — kick the unwanted critters to the curb. Once you’ve confirmed the presence of fleas or ticks, you must remove them from your pet and your home. There are many over-the-counter pesticides and flea shampoos on the market, as well as at-home grooming techniques to help cure your animal and ease symptoms. Brushing your pet with a flea comb can be helpful in removing existing fleas from their fur while the medication works to destroy itchy irritants. Call your local veterinarian if you need help or are unsure of what steps to take.

“Keeping your pets in optimal health is something we all strive for. Healthy pets start with committing to annual health checkups with your veterinarian. Pets don’t have voices, so it’s our job — as pet parents and veterinarians — to speak for them,” explains Dr. Kathleen Norman, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. “Have an honest and open discussion with your veterinarian to determine the plan of action that’s right for your family.”

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