By Dr. Veja Tillman, DVM
There are over 2,000 species of fleas, but the cat flea is the one most likely causing problems for your pet (cat or dog) and in your home. They generally cause allergy and dermatological problems for pets and humans and rarely transmit disease. Fleas are most active around sunset, and least active at sunrise. At dusk, there is an increase in movement and egg production. Fleas are never completely inactive. They produce eggs and feces through all hours of the day.
Ideal conditions for flea infestations are between 65 and 80 degrees with 70 to 80 percent relative humidity. In Southwest Florida, flea season is year-round. That means as a pet owner, it is important to maintain a veterinarian-prescribed flea control program for all twelve months of the year.
Signs of a flea infestation include:
• Seeing fleas hopping on your drapery, carpet, or furniture.
• Seeing multiple dot-like insects in your pet’s fur.
• Seeing your pets scratch, lick, or bite their fur excessively.
Fleas enter your home on your pets, but they can quickly find refuge in the house. Carpets, bedding, pet beds, and upholstered furniture make cozy homes for fleas, flea eggs, and flea larvae.
Fleas are extremely hard to get rid of. They have flattened bodies so they can move through fur (and carpet) easily. They have extraordinarily strong exoskeletons, making them awfully hard to crush. Fleas are small and can leap away from danger quickly. So, if they do get away, they are very hard to find again.
To effectively control fleas, you must remove them from your pets, your home and outside spaces. Removing fleas from your pet alone will allow fleas to return and reinfest your pet and your home.
Treat Your Pet
Your first line of defense is to bathe your pet with a flea shampoo to remove as many fleas as possible. Then begin a flea control program to keep fleas from coming back. There are many good products to choose from, and it is a good idea to rotate your products every two to three years to ensure efficacy.
• TOPICAL FLEA PRODUCTS are applied directly to the pet’s skin, between the shoulder blades so the pet cannot lick it. These products are usually applied one time each month. Some topical flea applications contain an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) which breaks the flea life cycle for long-lasting protection.
• Oral Flea Control is administered by feeding a tablet either by placing directly into the mouth or hiding it in food. There is no messy application, it will not rub or wash off, and there is no odor.
A flea comb is the best method for sick, pregnant, or infant pets and as a rule of thumb, do not use dog products on cats.
Treat Your Home
Many people forget to treat their home to get rid of fleas. Fleas and flea eggs fall off your pet anywhere they may roam and fleas love to hide in carpets and furniture. Vacuuming daily (especially in high traffic areas) will help to reduce these pests. Vacuum bags should be disposed of in a sealed plastic bag and discarded immediately. Use of carpet powders, foggers and sprays will also help to reach and eliminate fleas in their hiding places.
Wash your pet’s bedding weekly and treat the area around the bedding. Be sure to clean and treat all areas where your pet spends time: the car, the pet carrier, the garage, etc.
Treat Your Outdoor Pet Area
Be sure to treat under bushes, decks, trees, and other places where untreated wildlife frequently visits. Your outdoor treatment should focus on these areas. Clear your yard to eliminate leaves, straw, and grass clippings as fleas like warm, moist, shady places. Spray or fog your yard and kennels regularly with an insecticide premise spray or wash. Be sure to keep your pets away from these treated areas until they have dried completely or in accordance with the manufacturer recommendations.
Keep in mind that pets, homes and outside spaces should be treated at the same time to effectively reduce flea populations.
If you do not want to see another flea, prevention is the best defense. Regular and consistent use of repellents indoors, outdoors and on your pet(s) will reduce the risk of recurring problems.
If you need help, call us at (239) 270-5721.
About Dr. Veja Tillman, DVM
Dr. Tillman is a 2002 graduate of Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine. Her veterinary practice and work experience focuses on patients at emergency and critical care centers in Southwest Florida. She is the owner of Just 4 Pets Wellness Center.