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Protect your Pets – and Family – from Fleas?

dogSpring can awaken your pooch’s senses, but it can also wake pesky fleas from their hibernation. The mere mention of the word can get you scratching!

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. Your pet’s best defense against these pesky parasites is knowledge and prevention.

A bit of biology
Pets pick up fleas from the environment as well as from other infested animals. The insect’s strong legs allow it to jump from the ground onto a pet, or from one pet to another (fleas don’t have wings, so they can’t fly).

The life span of a flea (egg, larva, cocoon, and adult) varies according to environmental conditions. They prefer warm, humid temperatures, and thrive in some areas of the country all year round. However, this hardy little pest can resist freezing temperatures and stay safely in its cocoon for several months!

One microscopic flea egg can start an entire colony. A female flea will begin laying eggs after feasting on two or three bites from the host, and may produce 150 to 300 eggs per week. While the adult flea literally digs in, her eggs fall off of the pet into the bedding, carpet, furniture, yard… virtually anywhere the pet goes.

An ounce of prevention
Eradicating fleas from your home and pet is difficult and expensive. Since fleas are about the size of the head of a pin, and their eggs look like little grains of salt, they can be very difficult to spot. And the fleas you actually see on the dog are only about 5% of the population. What’s more, a flea-infested pet can drop hundreds of new eggs around the house each day.

The best way to deal with flea infestation is prevention. There are highly-effective, easy-to-use products on the market today that can help. According to recent research, Frontline kills 100% of fleas on pets within 18 hours and keeps working an entire month or more (additional studies show that Frontline kills ticks within 48 hours as well, eliminating the need for two preventatives). Applied once a month on the back of the neck, it is even approved for use on very young puppies and kittens. Frontline is now available at your local Best Friends center.

If they’ve infested
Veterinary researchers recommend a three step process to rid the home of fleas:

  • Bathe the pet in a medicated shampoo. Ask a professional groomer or vet which product is best for your pet. You may prefer to have this task handled by a groomer away from your home.
  • Vacuum the home thoroughly and discard the vacuum bag. You may need to do this several times to get rid of all of the fleas and eggs. Consider steam cleaning carpets.
  • Treat the environment. Speak to professional pest control companies about solutions for both indoor and out.

"Start with treatments before there is a flea problem," advises Dr. Michael Dryden, an expert on veterinary parasitology at Kansas State University. "One or two fleas aren’t a problem. The problem is the hundreds of fleas resulting from reproduction."