It starts with a telltale shake of the head and scratching, especially around the neck and ears. Before you know it, your pet’s fur is flying, as your poor dog or cat tries to stop the itches! Yes, fleas are out again, so let’s get ready to deal with them.
The flea (Ctenocephalides felis in cats, Ct. canis in dogs) is an innocuous bug. The adult flea is a tiny brown\black critter, with a hard shell and six legs that help it jump great distances (5-7 inches high and 12-24 inches in distance). The difference between dog fleas and cat fleas is minimal, except that they can both bite humans and pets, and they can be extremely difficult to get rid of, no matter where they’re found.
Isn’t spring too early for fleas? Not necessarily.
The flea’s life cycle, from egg to adult, can take from two weeks to eight months, depending on the temperature, humidity, and the flea’s access to food. The female flea lays 15 to 20 eggs PER DAY on her host. Eggs can drop off your pet onto carpets, furniture, pet beds, even cracks in wood floors. Eggs hatch in two days to two weeks, and larvae may be found anywhere your pet has been.
In about a week to two weeks, adult fleas emerge and wait until they detect a living host that they can feed on. Warm, moist weather is beneficial to fleas in the pupal growth stage. Adult fleas can exist in a static state for a long time as long as they’re in their pupal cocoons.
In fact, fleas can survive from two months to two years without feeding, just waiting for the right warm body to come along.
Fleas can cause flea allergy dermatitis, and even anemia on smaller animals. Fleas may also spread tapeworms from dogs and cats, if parts of infected fleas are accidentally consumed due to inadequate hygiene.
Groom your pet with a flea comb to remove most of the flea eggs and adult fleas. Wash your pet’s bedding, and vacuum carpets, floors, and baseboards with a HEPA-type vacuum wherever pet hair gathers. Vacuuming must be done regularly — every day if possible. Dispose of the wrapped vacuum bag in an outdoor garbage container.
There many shampoos, powders, flea collars, and monthly topical and oral treatments to use on your pet to repel fleas. You may choose to use an over-the-counter product, but be sure to read the instructions carefully and apply the treatment only as directed. Use only the appropriate treatment on your pet; for example, a flea treatment for dogs may not be safely used on a cat.
If you have any doubts, consult with your veterinarian. He or she will have treated many different animals for fleas, and can help you narrow down your choices to what may be most effective for your pet. Anything that breaks the cycle of flea infestation will be worth it in continued good health for you and your pet.