Pet parents are constantly on the lookout for dangers to their pets, but some are so small you might not even notice them. External parasites, like fleas and ticks, are common problems, and depending on your location, you need to be extra vigilant. Education is vital in managing these issues, so here are some essential tips to avoid parasites for pet owners and groomers.
Fleas are difficult to spot because they are tiny – about the size of a sesame seed. The best place to see if your 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.
Because the signs of fleas on a pet are so subtle, many pet parents don’t realize their pet is infested before going to the grooming salon. Luckily, many groomers are trained to look for these signs and know exactly how to handle them with these two simple steps.
Bath Time: Immediately bathe the pet with a pesticide shampoo. Pesticide shampoos are meant to kill fleas, but groomers must be careful not to get acute pesticide poisoning. The best way to avoid this is to always read the label before using it and follow the directions. Groomers should also always wear eye protection and gloves when handling pesticide shampoos, even with natural ones.
Comb It Out: Take a flea comb and go through the pet’s coat to remove fleas before rinsing. Checking and removing the fleas before drying will reduce the chances of live fleas being blown off the coat and on to other pets in the salon.
However, it’s important to remember that removing fleas from a pet in the salon is not enough! 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 again. Pet owners can help shorten the life cycle of a flea by washing the pet’s bedding and toys as well as fumigating by setting off “flea bombs” every 12 days. Pet owners may also have to treat the yard and car if their pets are often in these areas.
Ticks come in varied species and can carry multiple diseases such as Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever. Typically found in wooded areas, fields and locations with a heavy deer population, pet owners should check themselves and their pets after hiking or walking every time they are in such areas. Ticks are generally found on the pet’s head, ears, toes and the folds between the legs, but can be found anywhere.
Pet groomers and owners should regularly check for ticks and remove them as soon as possible to prevent the transmission of diseases. There are many ways to remove ticks – I suggest using 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. Dispose of the tick by placing it in a plastic bag and crushing it; this prevents the fluids that also carry infectious diseases from touching your skin. Some home remedies suggest smothering the tick with alcohol or petroleum jelly or applying heat from a match, but this can cause the tick to regurgitate saliva into the wound and increase disease risk.
There are many ways to prevent these parasites from infecting your pets, both through oral medications and topical forms. Groomers should encourage all pet owners to purchase a preventative option. Groomers can also carry these options at their salon to help treat a pet if it comes into the salon with an infestation, or sell to the owner to apply at home after the pet is groomed. Doubling up on products could result in an illness or adverse reaction – groomers should never apply an oral or topical treatment without the pet owner’s approval and signed liability release first.
Groomers should clean and sanitize their space daily, but if a flea or tick-infested pet comes in, salons should set off some “flea bombs” to make sure anything that may have escaped is killed to avoid spreading the infestation to other pets. Most salons charge extra for flea and tick services because it takes additional product and time to eliminate these parasites from the pet.
Diane Betelak has owned Heads and Tails Professional Dog Grooming, Inc. in Liverpool, New York, since 1982. She groomed competitively in the U.S. and abroad and has numerous “Best in Shows” and “Best All-Around Groomer” wins and placings in prestigious competitions. Although retired from competitive grooming, Diane remains active as a grooming educator for Andis Company where she teaches the finer points of grooming across North America.