Tis the season for fleas! As the temperature drops and the weather gets wetter, fleas start moving onto your pet and inside your home. Here’s how fleas infest and live on your pet, and how you can prevent them.
Fleas often live in damp grassy areas such as the edges of ponds or lakes, tall grassy or bushy areas, underneath porch steps, etc. They are carried around by raccoons, skunks, squirrels, and feral cats. The adult flea jumps on your cat or dog and starts feeding on its blood and laying eggs. These eggs fall off and settle in bedding, carpets, or the cracks of floor boards. These eggs eventually hatch into larvae, which crawl deeper into their hiding places while feeding on organic debris (such as dead skin cells). They then turn into pupae, which then hatch into adult fleas, jump onto your pet, and start the life cycle all over again. This cycle typically takes 3-4 weeks.
Who’s at risk?
Pets that go outside will, with certainty, have contact with fleas. This includes dogs and cats that go outdoors (even to just the backyard!). Pets that live indoors are still at risk if they come into contact with other pets that go outdoors. They may also be at risk in apartments/shared buildings.
How do I prevent fleas?
Prevention is now extremely simple. We recommend for pets living in our area that they start flea prevention in June and continue on to November. Some years however, may require an extra dose if the fall is warmer than expected. Pets that live in warmer climates should be on flea prevention year round.
We recommend prescription only products such as Revolution, Nexgard, or Advantage. Medications like these are applied or given once monthly and are extremely effective against fleas. We do not recommend over the counter flea medications as they will only be effective for 2 weeks however, they can only safely be applied once monthly. This gives the fleas a two week period to re-infest your pet and your home.
What are the potential risks of a flea infestation?
The most common problem we see from a flea infestation is a condition call flea allergy dermatitis. This occurs when a pet has a hypersensitivity to the fleas bites. These pets are extremely itchy, restless, and uncomfortable from the bites. They may have scabs and/or hair loss from scratching or chewing and sometimes develop a secondary skin infection.
Pet’s that are living in an environment infested with fleas are also at risk for tapeworms. When the larvae have hatch from the eggs and are crawling around feeding on debris from the environment, they can sometimes pick up tapeworm eggs. In order for tapeworms to infect your pet, they must eat the affected larvae (it is not transmitted from the adult flea). Tapeworms can also infect people in the same way (you must ingest the larvae), which puts households with small children crawling on the floor at risk.
Another potential risk of infestation is flea bite anemia. This condition occurs in small or sick animals that have a very severe infestation. Because of the number of fleas that are feeding on the pet’s blood and the relative size of the animal, these pets can develop anemia as a result.