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Shoo, Flea! Protecting Your Pets against Fleas

Spring has sprung, the grass is growing… and the fleas are hatching. Aside from the terrible itch and discomfort fleas cause, they can make your pets very ill. Fleas can cause skin infections, hair loss, anemia, and even tapeworm. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that flea-related diseases account for more than a third of the total cases they treat in small animals like dogs and cats!

The flea life cycle

The life cycle of the flea explains why they can be so hard to control. A female flea may produce 150 to 300 eggs per week, and one microscopic flea egg can start an entire colony. While the adult flea literally digs into her host, her eggs fall off the pet into bedding, carpet, furniture, yard … anywhere the pet goes. A larvae hatches from the egg, then wraps itself in a cocoon.

Depending upon climate, it can take from 9 days to 200 days for an adult flea to emerge. Fleas prefer temperatures of 65 to 80 degrees and humidity of 75 to 85 per cent. That’s why, depending on which part of the country you live in, your flea season can last from a few months to year-round.

Pets pick up fleas from other infested animals and from the environment. The insect’s strong legs (they don’t fly) allow it to jump from the ground onto a pet, from one pet to another or from the pet to you. The average life span of an adult flea is about 6 weeks – but adults spend most of their life on the pet — and don’t leave voluntarily!

An ounce of prevention

Flea control begins with prevention. By taking action before fleas are abundant, pet owners can avoid severe infestations later in the season.

Modern preventative treatments are highly effective and easy to use. They contain insect growth regulators (IGRs) that interrupt the life cycle of the flea, preventing them from maturing into adults. Some IGRs kill adult fleas as well.

The most effective products, such as the popular Frontline Plus®, combine both types of IGRs and kill fleas in all stages — as eggs, larvae or adults. Applied to the skin at the back of the pet’s neck, the chemicals are absorbed and spread through the body to fight fleas and all stages of four major ticks — Brown dog ticks, American dog ticks, Lone Star ticks and deer ticks. While highly effective (research shows Frontline kills 98-100% of fleas on pets within 24 hours), these products must be used monthly for the duration of the flea season in your region. Frontline is now available at your local Best Friends center.

Other tips for flea control

Keeping your pet away from areas, or other pets, that are known to have fleas can help reduce your pet’s exposure to fleas. And, in-season or out, it’s important to regularly check your pet for telltale signs of scratching and flea residue. Since fleas are about the size of the head of a pin, and their eggs look like grains of salt, they can be very difficult to spot. In fact, experts estimate that for every flea you see on your pet, there are at least ten more that you don’t see.

Regular professional grooming can help catch flea problems early. Groomers are trained to recognize the signs of parasite problems and will examine your pet before grooming. If fleas are found, the groomer can determine the proper medicated shampoos and recommend treatments.

Prevention is possible, and worth the small investment and effort. With the proper products and a good grooming routine, you can prevent your pet from picking up these pesky pests!