Flea season is once again upon us! These irritating and infectious parasites are at the height of their activity in September, meaning that there are more adult fleas now than at any other time of the year. More and more pets are having the unfortunate experience of being hosts to these itchy pests, and more and more owners are going through the enormous hassle of trying to remove them. Thankfully, fleas do not have to be an inevitable concern for pet owners. There are many safe, effective, and comparatively economic precautions that owners can take to keep these pests away.
Fleas are parasites that have evolved to use your pets as a home to complete their own life cycle. Once they've inhabited your pet, they reproduce then develop quickly throughout your home! Just one adult flea can then lay 40-50 eggs per day, which can then develop into larvae throughout your home. Popular spots for eggs and larvae include carpets, furniture, bedding, and especially, anywhere your pet spends a lot of time in your home (e.g. their bed, your bed, a favorite spot on the carpet). These larvae then develop into pupae in these same spots, though they can also develop outdoors in moist, shady soil. Finally, these pupae develop into the familiar adult fleas that live on your pet. This entire life cycle only spans a couple weeks in optimal conditions! Only about 5% of this flea population lives on a pet at one time. The rest of the population is scattered throughout your pet's home. While 5% is a small portion of the population, they all must attach to a host to feed during their adult stage. This is why your pets flea prevention is critical in disrupting the growth of fleas and their populations!
WHY ARE FLEAS SUCH A BIG DEAL?
There are more than 2,000 species of fleas that use our pets as hosts during the adult stage of their life cycles. While all of these fleas can be an annoyance, some can be dangerous. Fleas can result in flea allergy dermatitis, an uncomfortable allergic reaction to such fleas in pets especially sensitive to their bites. Some fleas can also transmit tapeworms, and some can even cause anemia due to blood loss during flea feedings. While rare, some of these species may even transmit zoonotic diseases between pets and people.
Fleas can be identified in their adult stage in a few ways. First, you may notice that your pet is scratching themselves much more than usual and may even be developing some rashes or open sores. If you take a closer look you may see lots of dark flecks in your pet's coat. This could be 'flea dirt,' the dropping of adult fleas. While inspecting your pets skin and hair coat, you might even see some dark bugs, about the size of sesame seeds, jumping on your pets skin. These are most likely some adult fleas pestering your poor pet!
You've spotted fleas on your pet, now what? First, consult with you veterinarian to determine the most appropriate product to give your pet. At Crookston & Prairie Pet Clinics, we offer several different flea preventatives and treatments to meet your needs. Once your pet is treated, it is important to then focus on your home. Since 95% of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae are not on your pet, but scattered throughout their living environment, you will need to thoroughly clean anything your pet has had contact with. If your pet has been inside, this would entail vacuuming and steam cleaning carpets, washing bedding, rugs, couches, among any thing else that can be washed! For a heavier infestation, you may need to use a “flea bomb” or hire an exterminator to treat your home and yard.
The best flea prevention does not have to be complicated, but it should be diligent to be the most effective! The first way to stop the spread of fleas onto your pet and into your home is to treat your pet with an appropriate flea preventative. Flea preventatives are available for both cats and dogs in several different forms. For cats, we carry and recommend three different products to suite your needs. Bravecto ®, Revolution ®, and Frontline Plus ®, are all available over-the-counter to treat adult fleas on cats. These are topical gels that are safely absorbed into the skin and work by killing any adults fleas that bite your pet. For dogs, we carry and recommend two different over-the-counter products. Frontline Plus® is also a topical product, while Bravecto® is a chewable tablet. When applied to pets consistently and effectively, these products can help to break the life cycle of fleas during the adult stage. In addition to the use of one of the products, it is recommended to regularly vacuum areas where you pet sleeps, including floors and furniture. This also helps to break the life cycle of fleas by removing and disposing of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae that could be in your home.
With proper prevention and treatments, fleas do not have to cause any problems for you or you furry friends. If you have any questions, ask your veterinarian what your best plan may be to keep those fleas away!