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Ten Common Cat & Dog Flea and Tick Myths

A flea dressed as a ringleader for the Flea Circus.

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a myth is: “A popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone, OR an unfounded or false notion.”

Although there’s a great deal of information available regarding fleas and ticks – sadly, not all of it is accurate. Fleas and ticks can cause many health issues for your pet, so using effective protection at the right time is essential.

Do you think that fleas die off in the winter? Or do you believe ticks aren’t a problem for cats because they’re removed during grooming? Do you believe if you only see “a couple” of fleas, you don’t have a flea problem? Check out these common myths, the facts may surprise you!

Common Myths About Fleas

Flea Myth #1:  Fleas die off or go away in the winter.

It is true that a good part of the United States sees a decrease in fleas during colder months. Fleas can and do survive by “moving in.”  Fleas thrive at temperatures above 65 degrees, making our homes the perfect “getaway” for fleas. The pupae stage can survive up to five months in cooler temperatures – allowing a whole new generation of fleas to be ready to attack our pets in the spring.  To be safe, it is important to use flea protection year-round.

Flea Myth #2:  Chemical pesticides are harmful to pets and the environment.

At one time, this statement was true.  However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned products containing organophosphates like Diazinon due to cancer risks and environmental impact.  Due to advances in pest control, we now have products that are environmentally safe and can be used on pets. These products are available in topical, oral, and collars that provide effective flea treatment and prevention and are harmless to both pets and children.

Flea Myth #3:  Natural remedies such as brewer’s yeast and garlic are safe and effective flea control methods.

Many pet owners want to avoid human-made chemicals, so they opt for natural remedies such as brewer’s yeast, garlic, and apple cider vinegar.  The bad news is, according to studies, these methods usually don’t work. Those that do seem to have some effect only work on adult fleas. Plus, even natural products can cause a series of intestinal, liver, and kidney issues.

Flea Myth #4:  One flea isn’t a big deal, is it?

About 95% of a flea population is in the egg, larval or pupal (cocoon) stage.  All of these stages take place OFF of your pet, usually in carpet, bedding, and furniture, or even shady areas in the yard.  If you see a few fleas, you can be certain that there are hundreds of eggs and immature stages in the environment. This is why it’s imperative that flea control includes treating our pets, our home, and our yard.

Flea Myth #5:  My pet isn’t scratching, so they don’t have fleas.

While it’s true that scratching is the number one sign of fleas in dogs and cats, even if your pet is not itching, biting, or chewing at their skin excessively, they could still have fleas.  Remember that itchy skin isn’t the only concern. Fleas can pass on other parasites and diseases such as tapeworms and cat-scratch disease.

Common Myths About Ticks

Tick Myth #1:  Only pets that spend time in the woods get ticks.

The fact is, ticks tend to live where the animals they feed on (hosts) live, regardless of urban, suburban, or rural locale.  Ticks are found in any areas of tall grass, shrubbery, brush, and other plants. Although ticks can climb, they typically don’t fall from trees.  Adult ticks crawl up grass blades, for example, where they wait for an animal or person to happen by. When your pet brushes against them or the plants they are resting on, they climb on to your pet, attach themselves to their skin and begin feeding.

Tick Myth #2:  Cold weather kills ticks.

Ticks don’t die just because the weather gets cold, not even in the Northern states.  Some ticks become dormant, and others burrow in leaves on the ground. Some move indoors, and others find animals on which to spend the winter.  Snow cover actually insulates dormant ticks from cold temperatures.

Tick Myth #3:  Cats don’t have tick problems because they groom themselves.

Cats do pick up ticks, especially outdoor cats that spend time “hunting” in grassy areas and spend time resting under shrubbery.  Although a cat’s tongue is rough, it may not remove all ticks while grooming. Many ticks produce a sticky substance that helps them stay attached to your pet.  Often times ticks will attach themselves to areas where your cat cannot reach, such as her face or ears.

Tick Myth #4:  Ticks transmit disease as soon as they bite your pet.

Ticks can carry and transmit several different types of disease-causing pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxins.  However, not all ticks are infected and most tick bites don’t result in disease. Some bacteria may be transmitted within three to six hours of attachment, while others require more than 24 hours before transmission occurs.

Since it’s impossible to know if a tick is infected, prompt removal is key to preventing pathogen transfer to your pet.  Prevention is key to keeping your pet safe.

Tick Myth #5:  The best way to remove an attached tick is with a hot match, fingernail polish, or petroleum jelly.

While some of these “home remedies” for removing attached ticks may (or may not) work, they are dangerous to your pet.  Using a hot match is not only ineffective, but it can easily burn your pet and hair is highly flammable. Fingernail polish and petroleum jelly may eventually suffocate a feeding tick, but by the time the tick dies, it may have already passed disease-causing organisms to your pet.

The best way to remove a tick is to use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal device and grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.  Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick as this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, you must remove the mouth-parts with tweezers.  After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water. NEVER crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.


Click for Jeffers full selection of Dog Flea and Tick products.
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Read “How to Get Rid of Fleas: A Comprehensive Guide” for a full breakdown of the best ways to keep your pets flea free.

Treating for fleas and preventing a flea infestation are important practices in ensuring the health of your pets, your family members, and you. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Renee Jones, Jeffers’ Pet Specialist, by phone (1-800-533-3377) or by email at rsjones@jefferspet.com.