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How Pet Owners Can Detect and Treat Flea and Tick Infestations


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As spring temperatures rise, so do the risks of flea and tick infestation for pets that are spending more time outdoors. Fleas and ticks typically appear about five to six weeks after the weather starts to warm up. Pet owners have questions, and Nicole Kallish, education manager at Andis in Sturtevant, Wis., has answers that pet specialty retailers can share with their customers about which tools are right for handling these pests as well as grooming tips to help detect fleas and ticks.

Early Detection is Key

Identifying fleas and ticks within the first 24 hours of infestation can prove vital. Regular at-home grooming helps pet owners strengthen the bond they have with their pet while allowing the owner to scan their dog or cat’s body for potential threats. A comb with both narrow and wide teeth works well for everyday detangling and can help catch pests early on. For double-coated dog breeds, pet owners can try a fine tooth deshedding rake to remove excess fur that could hide fleas and ticks.

In addition to regular grooming, pet owners should check pets after hikes, visits to the dog park or other outdoor activities. Using their hands or a flea comb, pet owners should take a moment before re-entering their car or home to scan for potential pests. The stainless steel teeth on Andis’ Premium Flea Comb are narrow enough to remove fleas, but strong enough to detangle without irritating or damaging a pet’s skin. The comb’s rounded pin ends are soft and stimulating against a pet’s skin while the ergonomic soft-grip handle is comfortable enough for daily use. 

Know the Signs

How can pet owners tell when a flea or tick is behind their pets’ scratching? Look for these telltale signs:

Signs of Ticks: A small, dark bump in a pet’s coat or skin may be a tick. They’re easier to identify on pets with light-colored coats, but it’s more difficult to detect if the tick has burrowed. Pet owners can run their hands through their pet’s fur to identify any swollen spots or bumps. In addition to the torso and legs, they should be sure to scan sensitive areas where ticks are likely to hide like the head and ears, armpits and between toes.

Signs of Fleas: These tiny pests leave pets itchy, so pet owners should be aware of any unexpected scratching patterns. Flea dirt, which looks like black pepper, is visible to the naked eye. It can be found scattered in the pet’s fur, though it may be closer to the skin on longhaired pets. Pet owners should pay close attention to the belly, tail and groin area for signs of fleas. If someone is unsure whether flea dirt is present, the black specks can be dampened to see if they turn red. If they do, pet owners should carefully comb their pet’s fur to remove dead hair and debris.

Take Action

If a pet owner spots fleas or ticks on their pet, their home and yard should be treated with natural or chemical solutions to properly remove pests. If a pet owner only treats their pet, they may continue to pick up parasitic hitchhikers from their surroundings. These preventative measures are key to avoid future breeding grounds for fleas and ticks. In some parts of the country, like the Northeast and Midwest, prevention may only be needed for part of the year. For warmer regions, like the South and the West Coast, pet owners can explore year-round care. Adding an oral or topical preventative treatment is a good idea in any climate, but pet owners should consult their veterinarian to learn which type of treatment is best suited for their pet. 

Pet specialty retailers can suggest these at-home grooming practices to their customers so they can help catch fleas and ticks early. 


Nicole Kallish is Andis Company’s global education manager and a Certified Master Groomer and board member for the Creative Groomers Association. She received her education from The Academy of Dog Grooming Arts in Arlington Heights, Ill. She is also a current competition judge, and has been a Groom Team USA Liaison since 2015.

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