What are Fleas?
Fleas are small wingless parasitic insects that live off the blood of mammals and birds. Frequently, fleas merely bother our furry friends, but sometimes our pets develop allergic reactions to the fleas’ saliva. This leads to the development of rashes and even fur loss from excessive scratching or biting. This is called flea allergy dermatitis, and it can lead to secondary skin infections. Even if your pet doesn't have allergic reactions to fleas, you should beware of the pesky parasites. Fleas can carry diseases such as tapeworms and Lyme disease. Although tapeworms are not actually transmitted through flea bites, the fleas often carry tapeworm eggs. When your pet bites to relieve itching, he may ingest the parasite and become infected.
Fleas have four stages in their life cycle; egg, larva, pupa & adult. The length of the cycle can be anywhere from 2 weeks up to a full year depending on the environment, temperature, humidity, and food availability. One flea can produce 2,000 eggs in its lifetime and can reproduce year-round in southern climates. They prefer high humidity and warm temperatures, which is why we notice them so much more during the warm summer months.
What are Ticks?
Ticks are parasitic vertebrates that infest every class of terrestrial vertebrate, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. A tick is not an insect. They are members of the class Arachnida, which includes spiders, scorpions, and mites. While there are many species of ticks throughout the world, only a few are known to cause problems to humans and pets in North America. Ticks are more likely to target dogs. If you live in an area populated with ticks you should keep a sharp eye on these parasites. They can transmit serious diseases (such as rickettsial diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis) to dogs and even to humans.
Begin with a game plan that protects your pet, home and yard - The best way to help your furry companion is to seek veterinary counsel. There are two types of products out there for use on your pet, one is to prevent flea infestations from developing on your pet, while the other works to treat an active infestation.
1. Flea & Tick Preventative
There are orally administered products on the market formulated to break the flea's life cycle by preventing flea eggs or larvae from developing into adults. However, these products have no effect on adult fleas that may currently exist on your pet. Treating it by using a topical or oral flea medication will prevent the unnecessary suffering of your pet. If your pets are not on flea preventatives, there's a good chance they “got fleas”.
Fortunately, a relatively new class of flea control products, such as Frontline Plus and Advantage, has been introduced over the past few years. These treatments are used monthly and provide the best protection available against fleas.
2. Immediate Flea & Tick Meds
Fleas spread fast, which is why immediate relief is often necessary. The distribution of fleas often involves the lower back, base of the tail, toward the back, the abdomen, flanks and neck. It may become quite generalized in severe cases, leading to total body involvement.
3. Home & Yard Protection
If one pet in the household has fleas, assume that all pets in the household have fleas. A single flea found on your pet means that there are probably hundreds of fleas, larva, pupa and eggs in your house. When vacuuming an area you suspect may have fleas, throw the bag out immediately. Deny fleas their natural habitat by removing any piles of damp twigs or grass from around your home. Check pets for ticks before bringing them inside. Remove embedded ticks using fine-pointed tweezers and destroy them in a jar of alcohol. There are wonderful products that we can recommend to treat fleas inside and outside your home.
Flea & tick collars can be effective, but they must be applied properly. To get the right degree of snugness, you should just be able to get two fingers between the collar and your pet's neck. Be sure to cut off any excess portion of the collar after you have properly applied it. Otherwise, the animal or other pets may try to chew on the end.
When using flea treatment and prevention, make sure that the product you are using is specifically meant for your pet. Do not use medications indicated for dogs on cats or vice versa, as your pet could get seriously ill or die. In case of accidental administration seek immediate veterinary assistance.
A Final Word
When battling a flea infestation it is important to keep in mind the following:
- Constant vigilance is required; particularly during those warm summer months.
- Keep areas where your pet(s) spend(s) a lot of time clean; vacuum, wash & mop.
- When vacuuming remember to get the creases and crevices as these are a favorite spot for those nasty fleas.
- Depending on your situation it may take as long as six months to become completely flea free.
- Spread the word about the importance of being flea free! GET YOUR "Got Fleas?" T-Shirts Today!