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What about fleas? While cases of flea allergy dermatitis are less dramatic and less severe than they were back when I first began practicing, thanks to better products for prevention, they do still occur.
The climactic conditions that can lead to a higher flea population vary from year to year, but in many places fleas are out to get our pets seven to 12 months a year. And as with brown dog ticks, fleas enjoy a cushy indoor existence. They can lurk in your home year-round.
Even if your pet — a cat, for instance — lives indoors, fleas and ticks can find their way inside via other pets, people and wildlife. You or your dog can bring them home from a hike, and critters such as opossums, squirrels and raccoons can spread them if they are living beneath your home or have found their way into a crawl space.
Some of those parasites even prefer to live indoors. Take brown dog ticks — please! They can survive for more than a year indoors, even with nothing to feed on. Depending on their life stage, fleas can survive for many weeks indoors.
When you stop administering flea-prevention products, under the assumption that “flea season” is over, you run the risk of having to fight them all over again. Today’s flea-control products are fast-acting and effective, but depending on which product you use, there can still be a three- to four-month lag between the time you begin treatment and the time you can expect the fleas to, er, flee. Even if new fleas make their way into your home or onto your pet, the important goals are to kill them quickly and make sure they can’t reproduce, as well as to provide your pet with ongoing protection.
Fleas and ticks aren’t just disgusting to us and uncomfortable for our pets. They can transmit diseases to animals. When we come into contact with parasites that have latched onto our pets, we run the risk of disease as well. That makes preventing parasite infestation a public health issue.
Dr. Little and other parasite experts have a mantra: every pet, every month, all year long. The best way to successfully control parasites, especially in a multi-pet household, is to make sure that every animal is treated on a regular basis.
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