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Pest Prevention: Plenty of Innovative Products Help Pet Parents Battle Fleas, Ticks

By Pet Age Staff//April 30, 2024//

Pest Prevention: Plenty of Innovative Products Help Pet Parents Battle Fleas, Ticks

By: Pet Age Staff//April 30, 2024//

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External parasites, like fleas and ticks, are common problems. However, they aren’t just a nuisance, they can cause a pet significant blood loss or anemia if left untreated. In addition, these parasites can carry diseases, which makes it even more vital for the industry to help consumers keep their pets safe from these pests. Some of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning that the disease can transmit from animals to humans, according to officials from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Examples include Lyme disease, plague, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and bartonellosis.

Pet retailers can play a vital role in helping to educate their customers about not only the importance of flea and tick prevention, but also the options that are available to them. Retailers should be well-versed on all the steps necessary for handling fleas and ticks to communicate to the consumer, from the symptoms to the treatment. Knowing the proper process for handling fleas and ticks will not only eradicate the issue but also provide them with the tools for future prevention.

Fleas are difficult to spot because they are tiny – abot uthe size of a sesame seed. The best place to see if a pet is infested is around the eyes and genitals, because fleas need liquid to survive. Flea dirt, which looks like tiny reddish flakes that break down when wet, is another sign your pet may have a flea problem.

It’s important to remember that fleas can live on a surface anywhere from 12 days to six months, depending on the environment and humidity – meaning pets can come home free of fleas and become infested. It’s also worth noting that cats with an exclusively indoors-only lifestyle also can be plagued by fleas brought into the home by humans or the family dog.

Ticks, meanwhile, come in varied species and are typically found in wooded areas, fields and locations with a heavy deer population. Ticks are generally found on the pet’s head, ears, toes and the folds between the legs.

There are many ways to remove ticks, with one popular method being the use of a tick remover or tweezers to carefully pull the tick free without crushing it, making sure to get the head as well to prevent infection. A recommended way to dispose of the tick is by placing it in a plastic bag and crushing it; this prevents the fluids that also carry infectious diseases from touching one’s skin.

Pet travel has become a factor that has changed the theories behind flea and tick protection, because there is no longer just a season of flea and ticks. Instead, it has become a year-round battle. Veterinary professionals, along with pet industry manufacturers, are suggesting that year-round treatment prevention is a much more practical and medically sound approach to controlling the problem.

Flea and tick products come in a variety of forms, including pills and chews to sprays and food toppers to collars and shampoos. With so many different applications to choose from, retailers have a unique opportunity to create their own in-store prevention centers and do brisk business year-round. This also means the onus has been thrust upon them to truly understand what they are selling. This is especially important since the category is growing at a fast rate.

There are two major factors affecting the segment: Affordability, which is being driven by generic and grocery store brands, and natural care, which is being driven by a desire for eco-friendly ingredients.

A growing number of pet parents are seeking natural pest control options, and brands are responding with products that fit this need. From a manufacturer’s standpoint, producing organic products — especially in the flea and tick category — means that their raw materials are better in quality, which translates to a more effective product.

USDA Certified organic pet grooming products are rare, but Pure and Natural Pet is one that has been certified for many of its shampoos, conditioners and balms. The brand’s line of flea and tick products serve as an added layer of protection against pests and are made with skin-soothing oils, so they won’t dry a dog’s skin. The company’s flea and tick products are all natural, DEET free, cruelty free and made in the U.S.A.

Containing no pyrethrin or permethrin, the brand’s Flea & Tick Canine Spray combats pests on contact thanks to lavender, cedar and peppermint. The spray can be used directly on dogs, bedding or in areas that a dog will frequent. It’s safe for dogs 16 weeks and older.

Another brand that has amassed a dedicated and knowledgeable fan base that values natural care products is Vet’s Best, a member of the Compana Pet portfolio of brands. Developed by Dr. Dawn Curie Thomas in the 1980s for use in her own practice, Vet’s Best has blended plant-based ingredients that work together to comfort and protect companion animals. It’s been an effective philosophy for the brand, which last year was named the No. 1 Natural Flea & Tick Company, based on 2023 Nielsen Data.

The brand’s plant-based product lines are specifically for dogs or cats. The misters, sprays, wipes and waterless bath products use a unique blend of peppermint oil and eugenol from clove plants to kill fleas, flea larvae, flea eggs and ticks by contact. In addition, Vet’s Best has a flea & tick shampoo for cats that is designed to kill fleas, flea eggs and ticks while being gentle on a cat’s skin. Made with cottonseed oil and clove oil, the cat flea treatment includes a calming blend of essential oils that will leave the cat relaxed and smelling fresh.

Most flea products on the market are species-specific. However, there are some products that are safe for cats as well as dogs, and Wondercide is one of those products.

Founded by Stephanie Boone in 2009 and seen on Shark Tank in 2016, Wondercide is an Austin, Texas-based company that protects pets, people and homes from pests via plant-powered formulas that work and are easy to use. Safe for dogs and cats of all ages, the signature line of products is powered by steam-distilled, natural essential oils.

Made in the U.S. and holistic-vet approved, such Wondercide products as Flea & Tick Shampoo, Flea & Tick Spot Collar and Flea & Tick Spot On are 25b products (deemed by the EPA to be “minimum risk” to humans and the environment) and cruelty-free, tested only on the pests they’re designed to eliminate. All packaging is recyclable including the aerosol once empty.

A new brand on the market offering a pest protection alternative is TiCK MiTT, which is described as a safe, easy and economical way to prevent people and pets from contracting Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. TiCK MiTT was created by a father-daughter duo who both caught Lyme disease while enjoying the outdoors. After years of research with a renowned tick expert and a product engineer and multiple prototypes they launched TiCK MiTT.

The product is a microfiber mitt that wipes away ticks by grabbing them off clothes, pets, hair and more. This highly effective and non-toxic mitt is inexpensive and brushes away ticks before they attach themselves to their victim, be it a person or a companion animal. According to co-founder Olivia Abram, who is a tick prevention expert, it takes only 36 hours for the bacterium to carry into your bloodstream, so avoiding a bite is the best option.

The Abrams are dedicated to raising awareness and reducing the cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. In addition to holding board seats at Project Lyme, they have partnered with several organizations to raise funds and awareness while also sponsoring Lyme disease conferences to foster knowledge on the issue of pest prevention.

A final piece of advice for retailers is knowing if customers have an active flea and/or tick problem or if they want to prevent one. If there is an active population or an infestation, brands recommend treating the source and not just the symptom, which is most likely a pet with fleas or ticks.

Insects come from outside and, when they come inside, they can take over. When that is explained, it helps them understand the process and the products required to be successful the first time. This method reduces the impact on the animal and extends wellness by minimizing chemical exposure. In a retail setting, understanding the problem is the best way to offer a solution and explain what is needed to find the right solution.