Fleas are the number one problem that veterinarians, groomers and pet sitters see. They account for a significant portion of the costs of pet ownership. Here are answers to common questions that pet owners have about fleas.
WHAT ARE FLEAS?
Fleas are the most common parasites in our area. Although cold weather may slow them down, they are never gone for long. They are not only irritating and painful to pets, they also have the potential to cause allergic reactions, disease, and even death. Fleas also pose health hazards to humans. Did you know that fleas can also carry blood borne diseases? Fleas are a carrier for tapeworms and can cause skin irritation in humans, as well. Fleas are tiny, but they grow and spread quickly once they find a host. One female flea can lay hundreds of eggs in one day. Keep in mind that every flea that you see has 50-100 unseen friends and neighbors.
DO PETS ALWAYS HAVE FLEAS?
No, it is not normal for pets to have fleas.
HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY PET HAS FLEAS?
Check your pets daily for the tell-tale signs of fleas: black pepper-like specks are actually digested blood from the flea. White salt-like grains are flea eggs. If you notice rice-like segments around your pet’s rectal area, your pet probably has contracted tapeworms from swallowing, or by eating small rodents. Notice if your pet scratches frequently. Your pet sitter is a good second set of eyes to notice any problems with your pet or any unwanted visitors.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not normal for animals to scratch a lot. Habitual scratching indicates a problem. The preventative treatments that you may have discontinued in the winter should start early in the spring to keep your pet’s coat, and your home, free of pests.
MY PETS ARE STRICTLY INDOORS SO I DON’T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT FLEAS
Wrong. Humans may carry fleas into the house on their clothes or shoes. Fleas can also jump in from outside when you open doors. Don’t forget about the housecat “that only steps outside the door once in a while”, or the stray dog or cat that runs through your yard. What about the neighbor who doesn’t believe in flea control and whose yard is adjacent to yours. How about the wildlife that you may or may not see? Did you take your pet to the park, PetSmart™ or to Grandma’s house? Did you play with your friend’s new puppy who just came from the shelter?
WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT AND TREAT FLEAS AND TICKS?
There are many widely available topical products and oral medications to keep your pets free of fleas and ticks. Consult your veterinary staff to find one that works for you and your pet. Be practical. Don’t buy a pill if you know you won’t be able to get it in your pet. Tailor your treatment to your budget and your ability. Don’t forget to consider your pet’s temperament. If your cat is difficult under normal circumstances, don’t assume you can put a pill in his/her mouth with no problem. Your local veterinary staff is an invaluable resource. Use their knowledge and expertise. Remember that they deal with pets all day long. It is likely that you are not the first owner that has experienced difficulty. Having your pet sitter come to your home can help prevent your pet from being infested with fleas that may be at boarding kennels or vet hospitals.
SHOULD I TREAT MY HOME?
If your home or pet is infested with fleas, it is recommended that you treat the pet, the home, and your outdoor areas. Plan to repeat the treatment of the house in approximately three weeks, to kill the fleas that will hatch out of the eggs left in furniture and carpet. Vacuum frequently and throw out the disposable bag or wash the dirt cup when finished. If you don’t notice a significant decrease in the amount of fleas after treatment, consider hiring a professional exterminator. Your flea problem may be significant. Make sure that the exterminator guarantees their treatment in writing.
Being diligent about flea control will keep your pets happy and healthy, and you will save time, money, and inconvenience in the long run.