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Fleas Dog Flea NJ
Oct 05, 2018

To Flea or Not To Flea

Diane Grigg Finley

Fleas Dog Flea NJ

Fleas have been around for millions of years, and they are the most common parasite found on animals. They benefit ecosystems by serving as a food source for many reptiles, birds and amphibians. Scientists use their population size as an indicator of the health and stability of ecosystems.

But to most people, fleas are parasitic, blood-sucking, uninvited guests in our surroundings. They cause our pets to scratch, bite, chew and suffer incessantly from their presence. Whether you have had an infestation or just a slight issue, there is always the question of how to treat your home and animals in the safest most non-toxic way.

To avoid treating your best friend with an overdose of insecticide, it’s important to understand the flea cycle and how it affects your environment, and to develop a consistent and reliable treatment plan. In the past, fleas seemed to appear when the weather warmed in the spring and departed in the cold of winter. Climate change has blurred seasonal temperature differences, resulting in fleas living and breeding year round.

Fleas are wingless insects with powerful hind legs that enable them to jump 9 inches in the air and up to 5 feet sideways. The female lays her eggs, up to 50 in 24 hours, in dark, damp places such as cracks in the floor or a corner in the basement. Fleas prefer an environment between 75 to 85 degrees, and eggs need about 50 percent humidity to survive. Eggs are not laid on a host. It takes one week to hatch into small, white worms. Each larvae spins a cocoon and pupates from seven days to a year. One pair of adult fleas can have offspring that can be present in your home for almost two years!

Adult fleas feast by chewing onto its host until blood appears, then drinks until it is bloated. A single flea doesn’t eat much. A blood meal can keep a flea satisfied for up to two months. A severe infestation can translate into anemia and death. Many animals develop flea bite allergy (FBA), which causes them to be allergic to the flea’s saliva. This can result in self-mutilation and extreme anxiety. A trip to the vet might be needed for a steroid regimen to reduce the inflammation and uncomfortableness. Other parasites, such as tapeworms, are transmitted from the flea into a host via the bloodstream.

Whether or not you actually see fleas on your pet, they may be there. Incessant scratching, scabs, and dark specs known as flea dirt (which is excrement) can all be signs that your pet has become the unwitting host to a family of fleas. These signs necessitate a plan of action.

Using some sort of insecticide is usually the first choice. That decision must come with research on which is safest and most effective. Systemic toxicity of flea medication is a real possibility. Dosing animals improperly can result in severe reactions. Carefully read packaging instructions and follow them to the letter.

There are sprays, dips, shampoos, powders, flea collars and pills. Many dog flea products contain Pyrethrum, which is extracted from the dried heads of some varieties of chrysanthemums. They can be highly effective, attacking the nervous system of insects. However, cats are extremely sensitive to this ingredient. There are products made just for cats. When choosing, make sure age, size and species are considered.

Spot-ons appear to be the most popular choice for dogs and cats, although they can be expensive. When applied correctly, many animals find quick relief. Upon applying between the shoulder blades, the insecticide enters the bloodstream. But one issue is that cats groom themselves and potentially can ingest the insecticide. Multi-cat households increase the risk of a toxic reaction because cats also groom each other. Signs of toxicity are excessive drooling, muscle tremors, staggering and seizures. There can also be vomiting, diarrhea and difficulty breathing. If any of these reactions occur, call the Pet Poison Helpline (below) and your veterinarian.

Bedding and sleep areas must be washed frequently, and vacuuming needs to become a habit. Many natural products claim to kill and repel fleas, but there is controversy as to the potential toxicity of essential oils. Many animals do not like the smell of these alternatives, and can be increasingly difficult to treat.

All applications have limited durability. Contact your veterinarian before treating if your pet has a medical condition. Err on the side of caution. Fleas do not discriminate. If your carpet becomes alive, the fleas have arrived!

The Pet Poison Helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-213-6680 or 1-855-764-7661.