Where do fleas come from?
Fleas are small dark insects that can be picked up from an infected environment or from an infected animal. In the summer months, anytime your pet is outside he or she is at risk to acquiring fleas. Any place (including your own backyard!) can be infested with fleas who are just waiting for an opportunity to jump onto your pet and call him or her home. Even your house is not safe from fleas because they can easily be brought in by visitors of any kind – humans, dogs, cats, mice etc can all unwittingly bring fleas into your home!
How can I prevent my pet from getting fleas?
Preventing fleas is simple and a lot easier that treating them. Your veterinarian has many safe, efficacious products that are guaranteed to prevent fleas from infesting your pet and your home. For most animals, we recommend a flea preventative from May until November but there is still some risk for fleas in the winter, especially if your dog frequently goes to a kennel, doggy daycare, or the dog park. For cats there is an increased risk in the colder months if they are outdoors, or if they live in a cat friendly apartment building. Talk to your veterinarian to see what they recommend for your specific pet. And be careful with any over the counter products- most of them do not work and can be very toxic to your cats!
How do I know if my pet has fleas?
Pets who have fleas are usually itchy (especially around their hind end) and if you look closely you might be able to see a flea crawling in your animal’s fur. “Flea dirt” can also be visualized – it looks like dark specks of pepper scattered on the skin surface. If you run a fine tooth comb through your animals fur, and place the collected “flea dirt” on a wet paper towel, the tiny specks should spread out like a small blood stain. Just FYI this “flea dirt” is actually flea feces that is composed of digested blood! If you see any of these signs please call your veterinarian and they can check the animal to be sure.
How are fleas treated once my pet has them?
Fleas are treated with a prescription flea treatment and your veterinarian has several options in topical or pill forms. Once it has been confirmed that your pet has fleas then all of the animals in your household need to be treated! You might only be seeing fleas on one of your animals, but trust us, all of the pets in the household have fleas- some are just better at hiding it! In addition, all of your pets need to be treated for a total of 3 months! This is because of the flea’s life cycle. The life cycle can vary depending on temperature and humidity conditions but it all starts when an adult flea finds a home on your pet and begins to feed. The females then start laying eggs within 24 hours. A female flea can lay up to 25 eggs a day and she can live on your pet for up to 2 weeks (that’s 300 eggs!). These eggs fall off of the pet into the yard, bedding, carpet, and wherever else the animal spends time. These eggs develop into a larva, then stay dormant for a while as a puppa (or cocoon), then develop into an adult and begin the cycle again. The process takes time, so it’s for that reason that you must treat for at least 3 months!
So if you have any more questions or concerns surrounding flea treatment or prevention please feel free to call or email us at Acadia Veterinary Hospital!