The flea is a hardy insect with a lifespan of six to 12 months. During that time, a pair of fleas could produce millions of offspring. Fleas have survived millions of years in a variety of environments. Some species can leap 15 to 36 inches high. That’s equivalent to a man jumping over 555-foot Washington Monument.
All that may be admirable, but fleas on your pet or in your household aren’t. Fleas can cause reactions in your pet varying from a mild skin irritation to a severe allergic reaction. Because fleas feed on blood, an extreme infestation can cause anemia or even death in animals. All cats and dogs, and other mammals too, are susceptible to flea infestations, except for some that live in high elevations or in extremely dry environments.
Whether or not you actually see fleas on your pet, they may be there. Scratching, scabs and dark specs, or “flea dirt”, found on the skin can all be signs that your pet has become the unwitting host for a family of fleas. Tapeworms are also contracted by the ingestion of fleas. If you notice small white rice-like worms in your pet’s feces or in the hair around his/her anus, your pet probably has tapeworms, which means he may also have fleas.
To battle flea infestation requires patience and perseverance, so put on your armor and get to it! Because the life cycle of a flea is three to four months, it will take at least that long to completely rid your pet and its environment of the enemy. Different flea control products work in different ways, have varying levels of effectiveness and kill different flea stages (eggs, larvae, and or adults).
Dips, shampoos, powders and sprays will usually kill the adult fleas on your pet. Using a flea comb regularly will help, too. But more adults may be lurking in your home or yard, and eggs or larvae may be lying in wait, as well. You’ll need to rid your house of fleas of vacuuming and washing your pet’s bedding once a week, and using a disinfectant on washable surfaces.
In addition to keeping your pet and their environment cleaned, the most important part of flea treatment is to make sure that all dogs and cats who share the house and yard are on an effective flea preventative product. These treatments are available only from your veterinarian and are typically given once a month. Be very careful to use the products as directed; some may be effective for dogs, but toxic to cats. Consult with your veterinarian before implementing any flea control program. Now that you’re armored with some information, you can help your pet with the war against fleas.
Even if you purchase an over-the-counter product, it’s wise to consult our veterinarian for any safety concerns. To assist you with clearing your home of fleas, you may want to consider hiring a professional exterminator.