Find out if you’re really ready for flea and tick season.

Ah spring. It’s finally warm enough to take your dog out for the long, leisurely walk he’s been begging for all winter, but you know they’re out there in the grass, lurking. Fleas and ticks are scary, but the even scarier part? According to this study, pet owners aren’t nearly as prepared as they think.

Let’s start with ticks. They’re spreading illness more than ever before—in the past 30 years, cases of Lyme disease have more than tripled. Plus, cases of serious tick-borne diseases like Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis more than doubled over the course of a 13-year study. One factor contributing to all of this is unseasonably warm weather. As long as it’s a little above freezing, ticks are able to come out of hiding and start looking for a new host way before what we consider “flea and tick season has officially started. Early springs and longer summers also allow them to hatch sooner and feed longer. In fact, it’s important to note that for some areas, tick season may be all year long now. That means you should always be careful with your pet in places where ticks like to hang out, such as tall grass and moist shady spots. Plus, you should also do regular tick checks on your dog or cat, paying attention to their head, neck, feet, ears and groin.

As for fleas, there’s way more to worry about than just itching and scratching. Dangers include flea allergy dermatitis, tapeworms, hair loss due to scratching, and hot spots. In large numbers, fleas can even cause anemia from blood loss and possibly death (this is especially a risk for puppies and kittens). Unfortunately, getting fleas is incredibly easy. Like ticks, they hide in tall grass and wooded areas. But because fleas can jump so high, even the most casual contact with an animal or place that’s infested can lead to your pet getting them as well. The worst part is that they’re relentless, biting your pet up to 400 times a day and laying 40-50 eggs per day.

So what can you do, aside from only letting your pet outside in a little protective bubble? Some popular flea and tick medications have caused pets to experience scary side effects, but natural supplements are a great way to go. Fleas and ticks hate the taste and smell of the essential oils in these products, so once a month you simply apply the product directly onto the skin between your pet’s shoulder blades. There are also essential oil-infused flea and tick collars as well as amber collars that release repellant aromatic terpenes and generate static electricity (which makes it hard for fleas and ticks to cling). However, if you live in a high-risk flea and tick area, it calls for extreme measures. Apply a pet-safe bug spray on your pet’s legs, chest and undercarriage before going out, and also spray the bottom of your shoes. With tiny little bloodsuckers, there’s no such thing as being too careful.