Fleas are well known to most pet owners as nasty, despicable, detestable and disgusting little blood-suckers that parasitize their beloved pet and can be notoriously frustrating to eliminate! In addition to this, they carry disease, such as a bacterial infection called Bartonella (able to cause “Cat scratch fever” in people), infectious anemia, and Tapeworms as well.
The flea life-cycle
Adult fleas seek out a dog or cat to live on and then will stay, feed and breed on that pet until removed or killed. Females then begin to lay eggs ate a rate of thousands per day. These, together with the flea feces, or “dirt”, fall off the pet onto the floor, carpet, upholstery and bedding. The eggs hatch in about a week into small maggot-like larvae. The larvae feed off the flea feces. After two weeks they reach full size and pupate into a cocoon. These adhere tightly to fabrics like carpet and are impervious to insecticide. About 2-3 weeks later, they hatch out, having metamorphosed into adult fleas. These fleas will leap on to the next dog or cat to pass by, meaning that once fleas get into a house, all pets in that house will soon get fleas.
How can I tell if my pet has fleas?
Itching! Any dog or cat that suddenly starts scratching or biting at itself needs to be checked for fleas. This symptom is called “pruritis”. Before long, it leads to areas of hair loss (alopecia) and a rash. Dogs may develop a “hot spot” from chewing themselves raw in the vicinity of their hips. Cats often develop a pattern of fine scabs known as “military eczema”. It is possible for other pets in the house not to appear to be infected, but they will still have fleas. Pets that do not have an allergy to flea saliva may “carry” fleas without any signs. Careful inspection of the coat may reveal adult fleas crawling across the skin, or possibly only traces of “flea dirt”. Combing with a fine- toothed “flea comb” aids in detecting fleas and their dirt.
Modern topical flea products have revolutionized the practice of flea control. These small tubes of insecticide, applied directly to the skin of your pet’s back, need only once monthly application. No longer is it necessary to use flea collars, shampoos and dips, or to poison the house with floor sprays and foggers. We recommend Frontline Plus and K9-Advantix, which also kill ticks. Nexgard is a new oral flea and tick product for dogs only, given as a piil. It eliminates the messy application on your dogs back, although it does not repel ticks or mosquitoes. Scalibor is a new six month collar that kills fleas and ticks. Seresto is an 8 month flea and tick collar from Bayer, the maker of Advantage, that can be used for dogs and cats. We also recommend Revolution and Advantage Multi, which kill fleas, intestinal worms and protect against Heartworms. Unfortunately, there is no single product that combines flea, tick and heartworm control.
Flea season on Long Island runs from June through December, so it is important to have enough product to cover those 6 months. Fleas will also be found during the winter if they get into your house. It is important for all cats and dogs in the house to be to be included in the flea control program. If a flea infestation is established in the house, you may speed their eradication by steam treating carpets and upholstery, or by dusting with boric acid powder. A high quality boric acid powder may be obtained on-line at the website RxForFleas.com . But even if you don’t treat the house, continued use of a recommended flea topical will break the flea life-cycle and eliminate them from your house within 3 months.