Once an infestation is established, it can seem impossible to keep fleas and ticks off your pets and out of your home and yard. In fact, it can take weeks or even months to get under control. Both fleas and ticks live on animals’ skin and feed on their blood.

Flea larvae is found in the grass and soil of your yard. They come indoors on your pet and then fall off, hatching once inside. Ticks hide in grassy or forested areas and make their way onto your pets (and you) when you walk by. They then bury their heads in the skin of their host and can remain dormant for months. Ticks are known to transmit diseases that affect both humans and animals including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis.

While it can be extremely difficult to get rid of fleas and ticks, there are precautions you can take to help prevent them in the first place. Here are 5 ways to fight off fleas and ticks:

1. Use Flea and Tick Preventatives

Flea and tick preventative medications for your pets are available both over-the-counter and in prescription strength. When investing in a preventative product, there are several factors you should look at:

  • Residual effects (does it keep working over time and for how long)
  • Speed and effectiveness of elimination
  • Safe for use
  • Kills fleas and ticks in each stage of the life cycle

When using flea and tick preventatives, it is very important to treat each pet in the household, as well as the house itself.

2. Find and Eliminate Flea Dens

A flea den is an area where fleas congregate that is usually found where a flea-infested animal repeatedly rests in one place (under a porch or in a pile of leaves). When pets wander through these areas they can pick up fleas and then bring them into your home. Once you identify the flea den, treat it with a flea-killing yard spray. Treat your pet with a quick-acting flea product.

3. Treat Your Home

Flea eggs will fall off their host as they move, ending up in your upholstery, furniture, and carpets. One way to get rid of these eggs before they hatch is to vacuum frequently (at least once a week or more often if fleas are already spotted in the home). Fleas tend to avoid high traffic areas so be sure to vacuum baseboards, under furniture, and under cushions. Make sure you also vacuum pet bedding, carriers, and anywhere pets spend their time resting. Change your vacuum bags frequently or put a flea collar in the vacuum bag to kill any emerging fleas. Wash your pet’s bedding, crate, and toys in hot water each week. Shampoo or steam your carpet to remove any additional fleas and larvae the vacuum missed. If you have an active flea infestation, sprinkle diatomaceous earth (DE) under cushions, along baseboards, in pet beds, and brush it into cracks in hardwood floors.

4. Treat Your Yard

Treating your yard is your first line of defense in keeping fleas and ticks from infesting the rest of your property. Keep grass mowed and shrubs trimmed as this eliminates places for fleas and ticks to hide. Try to discourage feral pets and wildlife from coming into your yard and bringing fleas and ticks with them. Opossums, raccoons, and feral cats are the worst offenders for this. Don’t leave pet food and water out overnight as these stray animals will be attracted to them. Trim back trees and high shrubs so wildlife can’t use them to access your roof or attic. Seal any openings to crawlspaces, garages, sheds, and under decks as wild animals and strays will often nest in these places. When planting shrubs, leave space between them and your home. Air movement and sunlight kills flea larvae and this will ensure there is both among your shrubs. Treat your yard with an over-the-counter yard spray that kills fleas and ticks.

5. Use Spot-On Pet Treatments

The majority of fleas and ticks that are brought into your home come in on your pets after they’ve been outdoors. Before bringing them inside, use a flea comb or brush on their fur to help reduce the chances of bringing these pests in. Consider shaving down your long-haired pets, especially in the summer months, as this eliminates places for them to hide and makes them easier to spot. When coming in from outdoors, carefully check yourself and your pets for ticks and remove them immediately.

If you suspect you have a problem with ticks and fleas, contact a professional pest control company who can provide you with a thorough inspection, help you identify areas of infestation, and set you up with the best treatment and prevention plan for your individual situation.