Contact us today! (727) 544-2459

Advantage Pet Center Post Archives

Our Favorite Pet Friendly Desserts

posted on February 13th, 2017 by Big Sea
Pet Health

If you’re anything like us, the best part of any meal is the dessert. Whether it’s a hearty bowl of ice cream or a chocolatey piece of fudge, the after meal treat has us licking our lips. We’re not the only ones eyeing our dessert though. While we indulge on sweets, our four legged friends watch intently waiting for a small piece to fall. Not all desserts are good for your pets, some, like chocolate, are harmful and potentially deadly. To keep our furry friends around as long as possible, we’ve compiled this list of a few of our favorite pet friendly desserts.

Fruits & Vegetables

Not only are fruits and vegetables a great and healthy dessert for humans, many are also beneficial to a dog’s health. Here are a few great options for you pooch:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Watermelon
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli

Your canine will love these delicious snacks and they provide many useful vitamins such as Vitamin A, B-6, and C. They’re also great sources of fiber and potassium and low in fat. Even with healthy snacks like fruits & vegetables, be sure to give in moderation. Like all treats outside of a dog’s normal diet, keep an eye on them after consumption in case of any potential allergies.


Next time you bake a batch of cookies, make them dog friendly! Double check the ingredients (and with your vet!) to make sure there are no harmful additives. In general, homemade cookies made without chocolate are safe. Try making Pumpkin cookies!

Peanut Butter

It’s no secret that dogs love peanut butter. Not only does it taste great, but it’s a great source for protein and vitamins for your pup. While peanut butter is mainly used to sneak your dog’s pills or keep them busy with a Kong, it’s a great treat they can enjoy for dessert. Before you go off giving your dog spoonfuls, be sure to check the label. An artificial sweetener known as Xylitol has been found to be harmful to dogs and it’s in some brands of peanut butter. No Xylitol? No problem. Don’t be afraid to combine peanut butter with some of the fruits mentioned above, it makes a super treat your pet will love.


During the summer months, keep you and your pet cool with some healthy fruit popsicles. Add yogurt, which is good for you and your pup’s digestive tract. Choose pet friendly fruits, like strawberries and bananas. Be careful that you include a few popsicle stick free options, your dog may eat the wooden stick and that can hurt them.

If you aren’t in the mood to bake, there are a few dog bakery options in the Largo and St. Petersburg area! Check out Woof Gang Bakery to pick up some tasty dog-friendly treats.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

posted on August 19th, 2016 by Big Sea
Pet Health

We all love to spend the hot, sunny Florida days outside with our furry companions. Whether taking our friends to the best dog parks around, on a walk, or just playing fetch in the backyard, remember that even the healthiest pet can suffer from heat exhaustion. Keep your best friend safe by ensuring they stay cool and comfortable outside.

How to Tell if Your Dog is Suffering from Heat Exhaustion

Dogs do not sweat to cool themselves off as humans do. In fact, they only have sweat glands on the pads of their feet. They cool themselves by panting. However, sometimes panting will not be enough to cool them off sufficiently and their bodies will overheat.

Monitor your dog’s activities and be aware of any changes in their behavior or appearance. Signs of heat exhaustion in dogs can include:

  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • Increased salivation
  • Bright red tongue
  • Red or pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Signs of weakness or dizziness
  • Lethargy, collapse, or seizure

How to Help Your Pet Suffering from Heat Exhaustion

If you see signs of heat exhaustion, take immediate action. Remove your dog from the heat and place cool, wet towels on the back and neck, under the forearms, and in the groin area of your dog. This will help cool their skin and lower their body temperature. Be careful not to cool your dog too quickly, as this can cause additional harm. Avoid using ice or cold water. Allow free access to water for your dog to drink but to not force them to drink.

Dehydration and other issues might still be a concern even as your pet appears to be recovering. Visit your vet to ensure that your companion is healthy, hydrated, and free of any complications.

How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

With proper preparation and awareness, you can avoid the risk of heat exhaustion and keep your pet healthy

  • Some pets are more likely to get heat exhaustion, including overweight and elderly dogs, and pets with heart disease or breathing problems.
  • Ensure that water and access to shade is available at all times.
  • On hot days, do not take your friend jogging with you and limit walking time. Too much exercise can increase their chances of heat exhaustion.
  • Never leave your dog in a parked car. Temperatures rise quickly and can hurt your dog in just minutes.

Preventing heat exhaustion in your companion is possible. Take appropriate actions to ensure the comfort and wellbeing of your best friend so you can both enjoy the Florida weather safely.

Healthy Hounds: 4 Signs Your Dog May Have Addison’s Disease

posted on December 11th, 2015 by Amanda French
Healthy Hounds Series, Pet Health

Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands (the tiny glands that sit just on top of each kidney) stop producing hormones. Since these hormones are critically important to a host of bodily processes, Addison’s is a serious concern for both people and pooches.

While there are no true “warning signs” for the disease, there are some factors that can contribute to the possibility of your dog developing Addison’s…

1) Your dog is a Standard Poodle or Bearded Collie

Unfortunately, research indicates that these two breeds seem to be predisposed to Addison’s disease. Your vet should be aware of this and discuss it with you at one of your regular visits. If they don’t, be sure to bring up the possibility of Addison’s with them, and ask them to run some preliminary blood work on your pet, especially if you have noticed any of the other signs in this list.

2) Your dog has difficulty handling stressful situations

If your dog is responding to family visits, knocks on the door, or anything out of the day-to-day norm for your household by losing his appetite or becoming lethargic, it can be a sign that his adrenal glands aren’t functioning properly due to Addison’s disease. Be sure to take him to see his vet and have some bloodwork done if it seems as if your pup isn’t bouncing back from temporary stressful situations.

3) Your dog has frequent stomach upset, for no apparent reason

Although a little gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea can be found in most dogs (especially those that enjoy scrounging for “snacks” throughout the house or when on walks), if your pooch is having trouble bouncing back from a bout of stomach trouble, it could be a sign that he is having with his adrenal glands, and you should make an appointment to see your vet and discuss the issue.

4) Your dog collapsed with absolutely no warning

If your otherwise healthy and normal dog collapses for no good reason, it is obviously a good idea to touch base with your vet, not matter the cause.

Collapse without warning is the most common presentation of Addison’s disease, especially when it comes in relation to any of the other mentioned signs. Your vet should run bloodwork on your dog as soon after a collapsing incident as possible, and pay special attention to increased levels of potassium and sodium.

Summing it up

The good news is that not only is Addison’s not very common, it is completely controllable with medication and lifestyle monitoring. Addisonian patients should avoid any potentially stressful situations, stay on their prescribed medicine, and visit their vet regularly.

If you are concerned that your dog might have Addison’s, make an appointment with your vet today.

Healthy Hounds: Holiday Foods to Avoid

posted on November 24th, 2015 by Amanda French
Healthy Hounds Series, Pet Health, Uncategorized

The holidays are upon us and they’re always a great time to enjoy family and friends, of the canine and human variety.  This time of year brings people together around delicious seasonal foods and drink, and while you may be tempted to let your pup join the festivities, it could result in an avoidable trip to the vet’s office. So we have put together a list of some of the foods to avoid giving fido.


Your holiday dinner will most likely include a bone of some kind, either turkey, chicken, ham, or steak will provide some tasty bones, but don’t feed them to your pet. They could easily crack or chip, making them very sharp, and get stuck in your dog’s throat, stomach, or intestinal tract, and cause some serious damage.


These are toxic to dogs (and cats) in any form: crushed, diced, powdered or minced. They contain sulfides, which can destroy red blood cells and even bring on a disease called Heinz Body Anemia.


Lots of people bake with raisins during the holidays or use grapes in a fruit salad. Aside from being a choking hazard they can cause extensive kidney damage.


The avocado is poisonous to dogs and this includes the entire fruit, skin, pit, and leaves. The avocado can cause a build up of fluid in the abdomen, heart, and lungs, resulting in a depletion of oxygen, which can be dangerous enough to cause death.


Another serious choking hazard, these nuts can cause pancreatitis in dogs, resulting in gastrointestinal upset including severe vomiting and diarrhea.


Chocolate and hot cocoa go with the holidays just like the Thanksgiving turkey or Chrismas ham. Whatever you do, DO NOT give it to your pups, it is very toxic, possibly even fatal, to dogs and cats. Chocolate poisoning requires emergency medical attention.


These contain a chemical called oxylates that are poisonous to canines and especially felines, which can cause gastrointestinal upset, seizures, tremors, and an irregular heart beat that can cause very serious medical complications.


Mushrooms are extremely toxic to dogs, causing damage to the kidneys, liver, and the nervous system, which can lead to vomiting, seizures, and possibly death.


Gum and candy containing Xylitol (an artificial sweetener) can cause a severe drop in blood glucose in dogs.  Dogs can exhibit symptoms within 30 minutes after consuming Xylitol, the side effects include loss of coordination, depression, and possibly seizures.


While we humans are able to enjoy hops (responsibly, please!) they are very harmful to our canine companions. Never give your dog alcoholic beverages. Although they’re naturally curious, please do not take this as a sign that they’ll enjoy a sip or more. Alcohol consumption can cause intoxication, abnormal panting, fever, irregular heart rate, liver damage, coma, seizures, and possibly death.

Please keep an eye on your pet’s behaviors as friends, family, or visitors may be unaware of the danger certain foods can present to your canine sidekick. Please contact your veterinarian or local animal emergeny hospital if your dog exhibits any unusual behavior including, but not limited to: lack of coordination, depression, excessive salivation, lethargy, gastrointestinal upset including vomiting or diahrea, excessive drinking and/or urination.

Making sure to keep Fido away from these possibly troublesome food items can help to ensure that a happy holiday season is had by all, no matter how many legs they might have.

Healthy Hounds: The Dangers of Distemper

posted on November 3rd, 2015 by Amanda French
Healthy Hounds Series, Pet Health, Resources and Tips


Understanding the diseases that can harm your pet and the vaccinations that will protect them is an important part of responsible pet ownership.

As pet parents, most of us don’t pay attention to what are pets are being vaccinated against.  We thought it be interesting to research the common dog vaccinations, and share the results with you!  Each week, we will go over a different vaccination for a different dog disease.

Last time on Healthy Hounds, we discussed Leptospirosis and whether or not you should vaccinate your dog against the disease.

This time, we will discuss the dangers of deadly Distemper.

The Distemper virus is still prevalent throughout the United States, but is especially prevalent in certain regions where the population is not well educated in the importance of vaccinations and regular veterinary care.
Therefore, it is especially important that you double check your pet’s vaccination dates if you are planning a trip and suspect that the  population might fall in the limited veterinary care category.

You should do this even if you don’t plan on taking your dog or cat with you, as you can actually pick up the virus on your shoes and carry it home with you!

Distemper can also be prevalent in pets that are bought in pet stores, as very often these pets have been breed under dubious circumstances, in unknown and unsanitary puppy mills.  Therefore, if you do purchase a pet from a pet store, make sure all of your other pets are properly vaccinated!

One of the most insidious aspects of the disease is that your dog or cat does not need to come into direct contact with an infected animal to contract distemper.  Your pet can become infected by simply being in an area where an infected animal has urinated.  For this reason, it is vitally important that you wait until your puppy or kitten is fully immunized (they must have had the third booster shot in the puppy/kitten vaccination series) before you give them too much outdoor exposure.

Canine distemper affects an animal’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems.  The early symptoms include sneezing, coughing and thick eye and nose mucus.  Additional symptoms include fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, depression and/or loss of appetite.

As many of these symptoms are also characteristic of benign conditions, such as kennel cough, diet change, eating of table scraps or even stress, they are easily ignored.  But, if you or your dog have been in an area that is possibly prone to distemper, you take your pet to the veterinarian immediately.   Early veterinarian care is crucial if your pet is to survive this disease.

We hope that you have found this post helpful and informative.  Please share this blog with as many folks as you can, as it could possibly save a pet’s life sometime down the road!











Healthy Hounds: Leptospirosis – To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate?

posted on October 26th, 2015 by Amanda French
Healthy Hounds Series, Pet Health, Resources and Tips

This time on Healthy Hounds, we are discussing Leptospirosis (commonly known as “Lepto”), which is a potentially deadly bacterial infection in dogs. We feel that it is especially important to discuss this infection, as the vaccination is not always routinely given by Florida veterinarians. You, as a conscientious dog parent, should be informed about this disease and its risk factors, so you can make an educated decision as to whether or not you want your dog to have the Lepto vaccination.

Several years back, common thinking was that the Leptospirosis bacteria was not present in Florida, so the vaccination was no longer necessary for Florida dogs. At that time, many veterinarians stopped offering the vaccination without having a discussion about its necessity for each dog’s unique situation. This led to a number of deaths, as owners would take their dogs to areas of the country where Lepto was prevalent and bring the bacteria home with them, spreading the disease and increasing the number of deaths. 

The bacteria is found in soil, standing water and the urine of infected dogs. It is easily transmitted from dog to dog. Other common carriers are raccoon, possums, skunks and other wild animals. You should definitely consider getting the vaccination if your dog’s lifestyle includes: frequent exposure to other dogs, visiting rural areas, a wooded yard that is frequented by wildlife, travelling or contact with stagnant water.

Even with vaccination, your dog is still at risk due to the bacteria evolving, which is why it is important that you know the early symptoms.  They include fever, stiff joints and lethargy. See your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. If treated early, most dogs will recover easily with no long-term complications. If left untreated, the disease can result in kidney failure, liver failure and even death.

Just like all vaccinations, the Leptospirosis vaccine can have side effects, so many veterinarians choose not to include it in their annual vaccination packages. However, the vaccinations of today are safer than ever. Many in the canine health community consider Lepto side effects to be more prevalent and serious than the routine vaccinations (i.e., rabies and distemper). Some side effects could be an allergic reaction, lethargy for a few days, and at times, a shock-like condition.  Some breeds may be more likely to exhibit an allergic reaction, like toy breeds. 

Vaccinating against Leptospirosis is something that should be discussed with your veterinarian. If your dog is living an at-risk lifestyle,  you should have an informative discussion with your vet to determine if vaccinating is right for your dog.

We hope that this little article leaves you feeling a bit more informed and in control of your dog’s health care!

Healthy Hounds: Great Ways to Exercise Your Dog

posted on October 5th, 2015 by Amanda French
Healthy Hounds Series, Pet Health


fitness dog lifting a heavy big dumbbellThis time on “Healthy Hounds,” we discuss the importance of exercise for your furry friends, and some great ways to exercise your dog.

When it comes to your four-legged friend one thing is certain, she needs exercise! A dog who doesn’t get enough exercise can seem to change personality, get antsy, destructive and even aggressive. So getting them out and moving is the best way to keep them healthy and happy – and it’s great for you too!

Walking is a common way to enjoy some outdoor time with your dog but you may need to get moving faster than a casual stroll around the block.  I know a simple stroll around the block with lots of stops to sniff and potty is a wonderful thing for both you and your dog but it does very little to actually exercise your dog.  It serves more as a mental stimulation than a physical one.  Continue taking these walks as they are really great for both of you, just don’t consider them “exercise” for the young, active dog. In order for your dog to actually be exercised while walking, you need to be moving quickly and for a longer period of time, at least 45 minutes, with hardly any sniff or potty breaks

When you think about serious exercise with a dog at your side, the first thing you’re likely to think of is running but there are other ways to get your pooch moving quickly. Power walking, biking and rollerblading all fit the bill.

Power Walking 

562548_jogging_with_dogPower walking, or fitness walking, is a great way to get some good aerobic exercise. Essentially it’s simply walking very quickly and using the muscles of your upper body as you walk. If you’ve seen people doing this you’ll notice that they look rather different, that they have a certain form. That’s because having good posture, keeping the chest raised and shoulders relaxed, abs and buttocks tightened and swinging bent arms all aid in walking faster. Also, pushing off with your toes can help. You should concentrate on landing on your heel, rolling through the step and pushing off with your toes. Oh, and one thing that’s counter-intuitive, to walk faster don’t lengthen your stride. Instead, take smaller, faster steps.

Now, when you’re power walking with your dog, you won’t really be able to swing your arms because you’ll end up jerking on their leash. So you can let that bit go but use the fast pace to get your dog some real exercise.

NOTE: For puppies under 18 months, you do want to take lots of sniffing and potty breaks, as their joints are not developed enough to withstand extended periods of exercise.


Biking is wonderful for the fit, young-adult, active and fast dogs. Biking is not for puppies less than 18 months, as their joints are not developed enough to handle extended periods of exercise.

walkydogThis form of exercise is really great in the situations where your dog is way more fit than you are, or just has entirely too much energy!!  To keep things safe however, you must use a contraption known as a “Springer,” which allows a dog to safely run next to a bike without getting so close that he gets caught in the wheels, and also does not permit pulling that could knock you off of your bike. Springer has a great video introducing you to the product, and showing you how to use it.

Power walking and biking are great forms of exercise and your dog will be thrilled that you can actually keep up with her. Before heading out, check out our post on running with your dog, as all the same rules apply!

— Ann Stewart is the owner of Advantage Pet Center in Largo, Florida, in the Tampa Bay region. She has owned and operated this kennel for over 17 years.  Advantage Pet Center offers full-service boarding, grooming and doggie day care. The staff is knowledgeable, caring and passionate about the animals in their care and they love your pets like they love their own.


Fact or Fiction: Is Pet Health Insurance a Must?

posted on October 4th, 2015 by Amanda French
Fact or Fiction Series, Pet Health, Resources and Tips


As good pet owners, we work very hard to provide the best possible life for our pets–the best living environment, the best food and … the best veterinarian care.
Picture1However, no matter how well we care of our pets, sickness and/or accidents are inevitable.  Annually, one in three pets will become injured or sick. Although veterinarians can do great things, they don’t come cheap!  An unplanned surgery or trip to the emergency room can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Sometimes, paying for care creates major financial hardships, or worse yet, is not affordable at all!   However, because of pet health insurance we will never be forced to choose between our pets’ lives and unaffordable emergency or extended veterinary care.

Who Should Have Pet Insurance?

You should strongly consider health insurance for your pet if unexpected veterinary bills cause you undue financial hardship.  Pet health insurance can be a financial godsend in emergency situations, when the veterinary bills can amount to thousands of dollars.  Additionally, it is a great help when pets develop diseases that require lifelong tests and medication. Pet insurance can really pay off in the following situations:

  • When your pet is develops the likes of diabetes or Addison’s Disease;
  • When your dog fractures a leg and needs surgery;
  • When your cat develops a urinary tract blockage that requires days of hospitalization and/or surgery.

What Does Pet Health Insurance Cover?  

Picture2Most pet health insurance policies cover the following:

  • Treatment for illnesses, diseases, and accidents
  • Chemotherapy
  • Medications
  • Hospitalization, nursing care, and surgery
  • Diagnostics and laboratory tests, including MRI scans and X-Rays

Some pet health insurance policies also cover the following:

  • Treatment of breed-specific and genetic conditions
  • Alternative therapies like homeopathic therapy, holistic therapy, and acupuncture
  • Chronic and recurring conditions 

What is NOT Covered by Pet Health Insurance?

  • Preexisting conditions;
  • Experimental treatments;
  • Veterinary fees in relation to breeding, whelping, or pregnancy;
  • Routine vaccinations and teeth cleaning;
  • Hip dysplasia (some have an add on rider);
  • Orthodontic procedures like crowns and root canals. 

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

You must pay the veterinary bills at the time services are rendered.   After all the appropriate paperwork is completed and filed with the insurance company (both you and the veterinarian will fill out forms and supply receipts), the insurance company will send you a reimbursement check.

How Much Does Pet Health Insurance Cost?

pet-health-insurance-imageA variety of insurance plans are available.  The lease expensive plans cost about $10 per month, but the benefits are very limited. On the other hand, some insurance policies can cost $80-$90 per month and cover just about everything, including dental care and annual health exams.

In conclusion, our pets do so much for our health and well-being, that they definitely deserve the best care we can give them. Although injuries and diseases are inevitable, they should not discourage us from pet ownership.  If you want to avoid the burden of costly veterinary bills, the best solution is a good pet health insurance policy.


Healthy Hounds: Common Foods That Poison Dogs

posted on September 29th, 2015 by Big Sea
Healthy Hounds Series, Pet Health, Resources and Tips

This time on “Healthy Hounds”, we talk about some of the common foods we may love, but are poisonous to your canine companions.

This isn’t a very cheery post to write as no one likes to think about the dangers facing their dog. However, your dog shares your home, they may have the run of the kitchen and, you may even enjoy sharing your favorite foods or slipping your buddy a treat now and then.

That can be fun and we want to make sure you’re able to do it safely. You see, dogs are very different from people. Foods that are okay and even healthy for humans to consume can make your dog extremely ill, and could possibly cause death.

So what are the foods that poison dogs? Below is a list of some of the most common food items that you need to keep away from your dog. This is not an exhaustive list and we recommend only feeding your dog treats made specifically for dogs or people food that has been approved by your veterinarian.


  • Chocolate – You likely know someone whose dog has eaten chocolate and came back wagging for more with their tail wagging and a smile on their face. That doesn’t make it safe, it means they were lucky. Chocolate contains a substance that in small amounts can cause vomiting and in large quantities can be fatal. Dark chocolate contains more of the substance that injures dogs than milk chocolate or white chocolate do and the smaller the dog, the less chocolate is required to create a problem.
  • Coffee and caffeine have similarly dangerous chemicals so you need to keep coffee beans – and especially chocolate covered beans! as well as grounds, away from your dog. So if you’re thinking about spreading those grounds around the rose bushes, make sure your dog can’t get to them.
  • Raw bread dough is another problem. The active yeast sitting in a warm tummy can cause the bread to rise and distend the stomach, even killing off stomach tissue.foods-toxic-to-dogs (8)
  • Avocados contain poison which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Alcohol is absolutely not safe for pets. It can cause vomiting, breathing issues, coma and even death.
  • Hops. Home brewing is very common and Fido might just try to get in on the act. Be sure to keep your home brewing supplies (and finished product) out of Fido’s reach.
  • Macadamia nuts may cause weakness, overheating and vomiting.
  • Grapes and raisins can bring on kidney failure and it may happen with only a small number being consumed.
  • Xylitol is a sweetener commonly found in sugar-free gums and candy. While it’s considered safe for humans it can cause weakness and seizures and may cause liver failure in your dog.
  • Moldy foods must go. You may have been raised with a ‘waste-not-want-not philosophy’ but when food is moldy, toss it. And be sure to toss it where your dog can’t get to it.  Some molds produce toxins that can be deadly to dogs. This also applies to things in your yard like fallen fruits and nuts.
  • There are also several seeds and pits which are harmful to your dog including apple, apricot, cherry and peach.
  • Onions and garlic are also toxic for dogs. It’s difficult for them to eat enough in raw form to cause problems but in their dried form, such as onion powder, garlic powder or a soup mix, these aromatic spices can cause real issues.
  • If you grow a garden you may want to fence it off so your furry friend can’t reach the tomato or potato plants as the stems and leaves of these plants are harmful to dogs.
  • And lastly, be careful when throwing out bones from fish, chicken or other animals as these are very attractive to dogs but they can obstruct the larynx or cut the tissue of the digestive tract.
foods-toxic-to-dogs (3)

Anyone who’s spent even a small time around dogs knows that what they find interesting to smell and enticing to eat is beyond human understanding. So be on the safe side, take precautions and when in doubt, just say no.

— Ann Stewart is the owner of Advantage Pet Center in Largo, Florida, in the Tampa Bay region. She has owned and operated this kennel for over 17 years.  Advantage Pet Center offers full-service boarding, grooming and doggie daycare. The staff is knowledgeable, caring and passionate about the animals in their care and they love your pets like they love their own.

Healthy Hounds: Eliminating Fleas and Ticks

posted on September 27th, 2015 by Joe Schembri
Pet Health

Welcome to Florida … we have fleas and ticks! However, on the positive side, we have some very effective means of controlling these pests.

This time on “Healthy Hounds,” we delve into the not so wonderful world of flea and tick issues.

If you are on flea and tick control now, and it is working for you; congratulations, you are ahead of the game.

What to Do: Make sure that you don’t get comfortable. Continue with your control because if you back off, you might only be a month or so away from an infestation.

Additionally, always stay on the lookout for these pests. Fleas and ticks are known to build up immunities. Thus, what is working for you now might not be effective several months from now. You might need to change products at some point.

If you are not on flea and tick control … now is the time to start, even if you have not seen any of these pests … yet.

What to Do: You can “nip them in the bud,” by starting on flea and tick control now. On the positive side, you should only have to treat your pet and not your environment. Don’t wait until you see the fleas and ticks, because then you will have to treat the environment instead of just your dogs and cats.

A quick word about indoor cats: If your cats go out onto a screened porch, or if they sit in front of open windows, you need to have them on flea control! Believe it or not, fleas will come in right through the screens. Many indoor cat owners have found their homes and cats infested—because fleas came in right through the screens!

You may also enjoy: Critical CPR Tips for Pets

If you have already seen fleas and ticks, then now is the time for an all-out attack! No waiting around, no time spent plotting and planning, simply attack. If you don’t attack these pests now, the problem with quickly escalate.

What to Do: You must treat your pets, your home and your yard simultaneously!

(1) Take your pets to the groomers to have them treated for fleas and/or ticks. You have to temporarily remove your pets from your house and yard, anyway. This way, the groomer also functions as a “babysitter.”

(2) While the pets are gone, use a high quality “flea and tick bomb” in your home.

(3) While the inside of your home is being treated (you must be out for at least two hours anyway), treat your yard or have a professional pest control company come and treat. If you happen to live in Pinellas County Florida, try using Costal Pest Control (727) 345-3354, based in St. Petersburg Florida. Wes, the owner, is very thorough and knows his stuff (he has been treating our property for about 15 years)!

(4) When you get your pets home, apply a topical flea control product, such as an “Advantage” or “Frontline” product (discussed below), so that your pets stay protected.

You will need to repeat these steps in about two weeks; so that you treat the newly hatched fleas and ticks (the eggs are not easily killed by pesticides). At this point, the monthly flea treatment that you put on your pets will take care of any “straggler” fleas or eggs that managed to survive your treatments. And, while I know this is a pain to do all over again, it’s the only way to truly eliminate the problem. Otherwise, you will just end up back at square one.

ticks on petsIf you are treating for ticks, I strongly recommend that you have a professional company treat your yard, as they have access to stronger products and get into the trees and shrubs better than you can with their big commercial sprayers. This is especially true if you have a yard with lots of vegetation.

The life cycle of a tick is far more complicated than that of a flea (I won’t get into it here, as it is just too involved). But trust me; instead of only treating twice, you will need to treat numerous times at about three week intervals. Unlike fleas, getting rid of ticks is a more gradual process. Unfortunately, you can’t go for instant annihilation, your goal needs to be that you are gradually seeing fewer and fewer ticks until finally you see none at all. It might take you up to three months of diligent 4-step treatments before you see no ticks at all.

A word to Apartment and Condo Dwellers: If you cannot control your outdoor environment, still do steps 1, 2 and 4. It might take a bit longer to totally rid your pets and indoor environment of fleas and ticks—but you will still get there. Also, talk to your building manager about possibly having the grounds treated for fleas. After all, the building’s owners don’t want a building full of pesky critters either.


Treating Your Pets

This list covers the primary flea and tick remedies, but is not an exhaustive list by any means.

Grocery Store Brands: The flea controls that you find in the grocery stores, such as “Hartz Mountain” and “Sargent’s” really do not work on our extra tough Florida fleas. Additionally, the flea shampoos by these brands tend to be harsh and rough on dog and cat skin. In spite of their convenience and low cost … don’t waste your money.

“Old School” Adams Flea and Tick Mists and Sprays: Although “Adams” has been replaced as a primary control by “Advantage” and “Frontline,” it continues to be useful in certain situations. Adams makes a flea/tick mist that repels and provides an instant kill. Advantage and Frontline do not do this—it takes them 24 hours.

Adams flea controlIf you frequent flea and tick infested areas (such as forests, campgrounds, brushy areas near beaches, some apartment complexes and neighborhoods), spray your dog with Adams before taking him out and the fleas and ticks will stay away. Whereas Advantage and Frontline are best for constant control, they are not repellants and instant kills.

advantage flea controlAdvantage and Frontline: Until the last several years, Advantage and Frontline products were the miracle treatments for fleas and ticks. However, fleas and ticks in some areas have built up resistance to these products and thus they have lost their effectiveness for some pets.

frontline flea controlIn my humble opinion, Advantage and Frontline should still be your first choice, because of their relative safety to both pets and people. They have been in use for almost two decades, and have shown only minimal side effects. If these products work for you, and you don’t see any side effects, stick with them. Save the stronger, more risky products for later—if Advantage and Frontline quit working.


Preventic collarPreventic Collar by Virbac: “Preventic Collars” do nothing for fleas, but can be deadly to ticks. However, they have one major drawback—they lose their effectiveness if they get wet. Therefore, they are not a good option for dogs that are in damp or wet environments (no swimming!!). Also, they have been implicated in upper respiratory problems in an occasional dog, so keep your ears open for any coughing, sneezing or wheezing.

capstar flea controlCapstar: “Capstar” is an oral medication that provides total flea kill within only several hours. It is great as an initial treatment for a flea-infested pet. It is not a good long-term alternative, however, as it loses effectiveness after only 24 hours


trifexis flea controlTrifexis: “Trifexis” is probably the most effective product on the market and also prevents heartworms. Although it works well for the vast majority of dogs, it has made many dogs extremely ill and has resulted in some deaths. It is not nearly as safe as the old standbys Advantage and Frontline. Use with caution!



Treating Your Home

The most effective way to treat your home is with bug bombs or fumigators. Their fumes permeate every “nook and cranny,” where fleas and ticks hide. Spraying your carpet and baseboards is not sufficient, as fleas and ticks get into furniture and draperies; and ticks climb the walls and get onto the ceiling and behind pictures.

Get bombs or fumigators especially for fleas and ticks (the roach bombs that claim to also kill fleas and ticks are not as effective). Buy bombs and fumigators made by a serious pest control company, such as “Raid” or “Black Flag.” As with the pet treatments, avoid products made by “Hartz Mountain” or “Sargent’s;” these are not adequate for Florida pests. If you have an especially bad tick infestation, hire a professional exterminator familiar with tick treatments. They will actually move furniture, take apart beds, take down pictures, etc. Again, if you are in Pinellas County Florida, try Costal Pest Control (727) 345-3354, based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Treating Your Yard

If you are a “Do It Yourselfer” or a renegade and will be doing the treatment yourself, get a name brand, such as “Raid” or “Black Flag.” Follow the directions explicitly. If your infestation is severe, you are not a “hands on” kind of person or your yard has lots of vegetation, then have your yard professionally treated. Make sure, however, that the company you hire is experienced with fleas and ticks.

In Conclusion

I must reiterate, it is extremely important that you treat all areas at once, if you don’t, the fleas will simply migrate from one area to another, and you will not effectively treat the problem. This is not so much of an issue with ticks, as they are not very mobile (except when they hitch a ride of your dog or a wild critter).

I realize that I have thrown a lot your way, but treating for fleas and ticks in the State of Florida, can be quite an ordeal. However, if you are consistent and vigilant, you can have a pest-free spring, summer and fall. Best of luck to you!

— Ann Stewart is the owner of Advantage Pet Center in Largo, Florida, in the Tampa Bay region. She has owned and operated this kennel for over 17 years. Advantage Pet Center offers full-service boarding, grooming and doggie day care. The staff is knowledgeable, caring and passionate about the animals in their care and they love your pets like they love their own.