2001-Fri Jan 20 23:32:00 MST 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
The thought of insects crawling on your skin and living off your blood probably, well, makes your skin crawl. Yet, too often as pet owners, we allow
fleas and ticks to treat our pets like bed-and-breakfasts. And it is only after these pests make themselves at home that we might realize showing them the door can be difficult, expensive and painfully slow.
Fleas and ticks aren’t just irritating and distasteful; they can lead to medical problems. Flea allergies can cause severe itching and skin damage; fleas can also carry the causative agents of
cat-scratch disease, while ticks carry the organisms that can lead to debilitating illnesses like
Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. So it’s crucial to continuously and effectively
prevent infestations of these parasites for the health and safety of our pets, our families and ourselves.
Consider the life cycle of the common flea: The average female can lay 40 to 50 eggs daily. The eggs develop into maggot-like larvae and progress to a cocoon stage called pupae. These pupae wait several weeks to months for the ideal temperature and humidity to mature into adult fleas. That single adult flea you find on your pet represents about 5 percent of the total flea problem in your home; eggs, larvae, and pupae comprise the rest. Your pet — and your home — can be infested before a single flea is found. And finding them can be tough, especially on cats, because of their constant grooming. That’s why a one-time treatment for fleas isn’t usually enough.
Pet owners often discover a flea problem because of a pet’s severe
itching, which sometimes is due to
flea allergy dermatitis — a sensitization to the flea’s saliva when it draws a blood meal. No pet is safe from fleas and their bites, but not all pets are hypersensitive to them. This means severe infestations can occur without your dog or cat showing any obvious discomfort. Therefore, it’s best to use preventive tactics to help keep fleas from infesting your pet and home in the first place.
To do this, speak with your veterinarian about safe flea-control products that you can administer to your pet year-round. Some products are administered once a month, but other products provide longer-lasting protection. Ask your vet about the best choice for your pets. Consistent use of safe prevention products is the primary method of managing fleas. Newly hatched young adult fleas usually feed right away. If your pet has been treated with an appropriate flea product when these adult fleas emerge, you can help break the cycle of infestation. (Remember to treat
all of the pets in the house, regardless of whether or not they’re
Treating your pet’s environment is also an important part of controlling and preventing flea infestations. Fleas lay their eggs on your pet, but the eggs usually fall off. Once in the environment, they molt into larvae and develop into the pupae stage. Larvae don’t survive well in sunlight, preferring instead to hide in dark, protected areas like deep carpet or pet bedding. Therefore, focus on treating the places your pet likes to rest, especially those that are out of sunlight, like a resting place in the shady area of the yard, your pet’s blanket or pillow — or even your bed (ick). Frequent cleaning or vacuuming can help reduce the pupal and larval stages of fleas in the carpet, and many flea control products used on pets also kill eggs and larvae.
But don’t forget that fleas can gain access to your house or yard in many ways, including wildlife, neighborhood
cats and you, just to name a few. Also remember that if your dogs or cats are allowed access to other areas — such as parks, nature areas, crawl spaces or even the neighbor’s yard — they’ll have ample opportunity to encounter fleas. Therefore, even if you’re treating your pet, areas of your home and yard may also need regular attention.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Want to choose the best food for your
pet? Here's why you shouldn't fear
preservatives or fall for marketing…
Electronic cigarettes may be growing in
popularity, but their higher concentrations
of nicotine can poison cats and…
Are you handling your pet the right way?
Our vet shares five things your pup wishes
you knew about picking him up.
We combed through 505,270 kitten
names to determine the hottest male
and female monikers of the year.
We scoured our database of 1.1 million
dogs to find out which male and female
monikers reigned supreme this past…
The laid-back American Wirehair’s crimped, coarse coat requires almost no brushing or combing.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.