One of the biggest problems of having animals is the potential for them to get fleas. Now with the warmer weather just around the corner it is time to drill into every pet parent the importance of controlling fleas. If you need an additional bit of incentive how about this? If an animal has enough fleas on it the fleas could cause the death of the animal through loss of blood. That's right. Fleas can literally suck your animal dry.
And the problem here is that many pet parents don't have a continual plan in place to keep their animals flea-free. Fleas can spread very rapidly. And once you pet has just one flea on it, there could be a dozen within 8 days. And over a thousand within 6 weeks.
Most of the time, animals such as raccoons, rabbits, skunks, and stray animals get infested by fleas because they live outdoors. These animals, while looking for food, often pass through our yards. Flea eggs that are on these animals will fall off onto the ground. They will then hatch and the new fleas immediately begin looking for a host. Then comes along your dog or cat. And the cycle begins all over again. But dogs and cats that are infested can also pass along their fleas to other pets.
When an animal is infested with fleas there will be an increase in scratching which can lead skin damage and secondary infections. Fleas themselves carry parasites and can pass them along to other animals. Many animals become infected with tapeworms, cat cat scratch disease, and various blood parasites. Once fleas have entered your home, it can be quite a chore to get rid of them. What you need to focus on is to prevent them from infesting your animals in the first place.
Life Cycle of the Flea
Fleas have a series of steps in their life cycle. Here is the short version:
- The adult flea lives its whole life on a host. It sucks the blood, gets fat, copulates, and then lays its eggs.
- The eggs will fall to the ground from the animal on which they were laid. This happens when the animal shakes, scratches , or just walks around.
- Within a few days the eggs develop into larvae. These will then feed on organic material. They are so tiny, that you really need a microscope to see them.
- After a few weeks, these larvae will spin a cocoon and develop into a pupae. These will continue to eat organic material and grow into adult fleas.
- The adult fleas seek out a host and the cycle begins again.
Flea problems usually diminish a bit in the winter. The freezing cold will kill off any eggs or fleas in the great outdoors. However, eggs and fleas that are in animal burrows and other warm places, like your home, will continue to live and multiply all year long.
Identifying and Symptoms of Flea Infestation
Because fleas are really small and can hide quite easily in the thick undercoat of pets they can be quite difficult to find. Adult fleas are often described as small reddish-brown sesame seeds. If you happen to see any sesame seeds moving around on your pet they he has fleas.
The most common areas of an animal where fleas will hide are around the neck, the ears, the base of the tail, the rump, and around the genitals. These areas provide the greatest amount of warmth and are perfect homes for fleas.
The most common symptom of a flea infestation on your pet will be the increased scratching that goes on. Sometimes, however, a pet will become allergic to fleas. In these cases, the animal will suffer from intense itching. They will even develop red, sore, and infected "hotspots."
If you brush your animal over some white paper towel or white paper, you may notice some gritty material that looks like tiny crusty commas. When you add a drop of water to this "flea dirt" the digested blood will leach out and into the paper. This will produce a brown ring around the "flea dirt." A sure sign of flea infestation.
In homes that have a really heavy infestation of fleas there will be flea bites on the ankles of the people who live these. Sometimes there will be bites on other parts of your body because the fleas will feed on you while you sleep.
There are many products available to combat fleas. These products work by preventing them from reproducing. Some of the topical products will kill off the fleas on an animal. However, these are often only prescribed if the animal has a heavy infestation. Some flea preventative products do come in pill form.
As a pet owner, you should talk to your veterinarian to determine which product is best for your pet. Most of the products are really safe. But there is always a chance that an animal will react to the treatment. This is why it is advisable to get a veterinarian's opinion and to treat the animal under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Years ago we used to use flea sprays and flea baths to control fleas. They worked great but were often a time-consuming chore for people so they neglected their pets flea health. Today, we mainly use topical solutions, like Advantage, to control fleas. Be cautious, however, don't use any other products with the topical treatments. Talk to your veterinarian first. Combining products can cause a toxicity problem and poison your pet.
For the most part, combating fleas involves applying one of the topical products to your pet on a monthly basis. It is also advisable to do a monthly spraying of your home and property with an approved, pet-safe pesticide that is for flea prevention. Regular washing of your pet's bedding material will also help to prevent fleas.
Today, flea prevention is a simple matter of applying a monthly topical ointment to your pet. These products are relatively safe and most pets do not have any side effects. With regular spraying of your home and property and washing of your pet's bedding material, you should remain relatively flea free. Your pet will really appreciate the effort and so will you.