Dog being brushed with flea comb

Tiny, wingless and after your pet’s blood, fleas are parasites you never want to encounter. Although fleas have been feasting on mammals for centuries, there are still a lot of myths surrounding the annoying insects — namely, around the idea that there’s no way your pet could have fleas. We might be in denial, but we have to face the facts: All cats and dogs can get fleas.

From home remedies that won’t work to the truth about their hiding habits, we’re debunking seven common misconceptions about fleas.

Garlic Keeps Fleas Away

Giving your cat or dog garlic to ward off fleas is just about as effective as using it to fend off vampires. There’s no scientific evidence that garlic will control fleas on pets. In truth, feeding your cat or dog garlic can seriously harm him. Garlic can damage red blood cells, potentially leading to life-threatening anemia if ingested in large quantities. You and your pet will be much better off getting a flea-control product from your veterinarian.

Pets Have to Go Outside to Get Fleas

You have an indoor dog or cat, so you think you’re in the clear when it comes to fleas? Nope. Even a pet who never goes outside can end up with fleas. While it is true that your animal’s risk of picking up fleas increases if he goes outside, spends time in kennels or enjoys the company of other animals, these pesky little parasites can still get into your home by hitching a ride on your clothing, other people or other animals.

I Don’t Need to Worry About Fleas During Winter

Although fleas do prefer warm weather, your cozy house provides the perfect environment for the parasites to thrive in during the colder months. Sure, freezing temperatures might kill some of them off but not the ones that are sheltered in nests, burrows and your living room. Plus, if there are no hosts to feed on, developing fleas can become dormant. This means they’ll just wait around to emerge until conditions are right again. Fleas are a year-round problem, which is why year-round control is so important.

Vacuum cleaner on carpet

Keeping My House Clean Prevents Fleas

Vacuum and scrub all you want, but it takes just one flea to sneak in for a parasite invasion to begin. And once you have a flea infestation in your home, you won’t be able to clean quickly enough to keep up with the fast-multiplying insects, which can lay 40 to 50 eggs a day, unless you treat your pet. After a few weeks or months, that single flea can lay hundreds, even thousands, of eggs. If you have multiple pets, you’ll need to treat them, too. Save yourself the frustration and ask your vet for a flea-control product to help prevent infestations in the first place.

Fleas Prefer Carpeting

Flea larvae, eggs and pupae can hide practically anywhere: bedding, your clothing, furniture, baseboards, you name it. It doesn’t matter if your entire house has tile or wooden floors and you don’t have carpet in sight.

Once Fleas Are Off My Pet, the Problem Is Solved

Not so fast. Your pet might not have any more fleas, but the adult fleas that feed on animals are only 5 percent of the problem. The other 95 percent of the fleas that invade are in other life stages: eggs, larvae and pupae. You have to get rid of them as well. And they’re not so easy to see. Some products target adult fleas, and others target fleas in different life stages. Ask your veterinarian for a safe and effective product that will kill all the fleas. And eliminating the infestation may take more than just a single application or dose. You may need to administer the product several times to wipe out the life stages as they develop. Depending on the severity of the infestation, you might also need to call an exterminator or treat your yard. Year-round control helps break the flea life cycle and prevent an infestation.

My Pet Isn’t Scratching, So He Doesn’t Have Fleas

Although scratching is the No. 1 sign of fleas in cats and dogs, even if your pet is not itching, biting or chewing at his skin excessively, he could still have fleas. And itchy skin isn’t the only concern: Fleas can pass on other parasites and diseases like tapeworm and cat scratch disease.

A flea infestation is not something any pet or person should have to suffer through. Prevent one from happening by asking your veterinarian for a safe and effective flea-control product and using it as recommended.