As the days get longer and warmer, people tend to spend more time outdoors with their four-legged friends.

Unfortunately, little critters such as fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes spend their time outside, too, and your dog makes a very nice home for them. They’re not just annoying to your dog: They are dangerous. Fleas can lead to severe itching and skin damage, ticks can cause Lyme Disease, and mosquitoes can transmit heartworms.

To keep your dog safe, the American Kennel Club’s AKC Family Dog magazine offers tips to help keep bugs at bay in the March/April 2012 issue. Among them:

Start with a tick check. Running your hands through your dog’s coat is a great way to find ticks before they strike. By doing this, you’ll likely find them while they’re still crawling around. Ticks must be attached for several hours to pass a disease on to your dog.

Invest in a flea comb. A flea comb is extremely useful. It’s small and has tightly spaced teeth that aid in trapping fleas and removing them from your dog’s coat.

Keep your home dry. Mosquitoes thrive in stagnant water, so eliminate this opportunity. Don’t leave open containers of water around your house and turn over empty flower pots.

Bathe less frequently. Using spot-on treatments are great, but frequent bathing can make them less effective. Those products are meant to move through skin oils, which can be dried and damaged by shampoo.

For more tips on keeping your dog safe from fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, check out the March/April 2012 issue of AKC Family Dog magazine.