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Fleas are annoying and once your dog or cat has them, it seems as though everyone in your home has them. You can’t just wave a magic wand and hope they disappear. Ridding your home of fleas takes persistence and a little effort but it can be done. Before we discuss treatment, however, let’s talk about the fleas, themselves.
Fleas are little brown insects that our dogs and cats come into contact with one of two ways. The first is through contact with another animal that already has fleas and the second is through something in the environment that is infested with fleas.
Fleas are strong little insects that use their powerful back legs to jump from host to host. They do not have wings and they do not fly but they still have the ability to move, and spread quickly.
Fleas are annoying to our dogs and cats because they bite, causing our animals to scratch and itch. Animals who are sensitive to flea bites can suffer severely. They might lose patches of hair or they might develop a secondary skin infection. Those who are most sensitive itch all over their furry bodies. When your dog or cat has a persistent itch, this is called PRURITUS. We’ll discuss how to treat it in a bit.
You’ll know if your dog or cat has fleas because fleas don’t bury themselves in the skin of the animals they bite. You might see them run across the skin of your dog or cat, despite the fact that they are small, about the size of a pin head. Fleas are dark copper in color and they hate light. Your best opportunity to see them is to look on your pet’s belly or inner thighs. You can also give your dog a bath, fleas hate water. Simply getting your dog wet will cause the fleas to scatter.
While you might not see fleas, you might see “flea dirt.” “Flea dirt” looks like specks of pepper and the following is a little gross to say the least—“flea dirt” is the feces of the fleas and it is made up of digested blood. If you’re brave enough and have a strong stomach, take a speck of “flea dirt” and place it on a wet paper towel. Give it a few minutes to spread itself out and if it looks like a blood stain, then your dog or cat has fleas.
As mentioned above, fleas will not go away, by themselves, once the welcome mat has been rolled out. You are going to need to be persistent if you want to rid your home, and your dog or cat, of these nasty little insects. Your first step is to remove them from your dog or cat and the second is to remove them from your home. You have two options when it comes to ending the life cycle of the flea.
Pills, such as Capstar are one way to remove fleas from your dog or cat. Capstar is given to your dog or cat orally and it begins to work in 30 minutes. It kills 90% of all fleas within a four hour period. Capster is immediate, while other treatments might take days. A second chemical option is the flea collar, Soresto. Soresto kills fleas for nine months, unless it gets wet and then it needs to be replaced. When choosing a chemical treatment for your dog or cat take time to understand what type of treatment you are going to purchase. Some treatments kill flea eggs while others kill adult fleas. Make sure you purchase the right one. If you are unsure, speak with your veterinarian to see what they might suggest.
If you prefer not using chemicals, there is a more natural way to rid your dog or cat of fleas. There are several flea shampoos on the market for dogs and cats and while they are effective, they are time consuming to use. It takes about 10 minutes for the shampoo to begin killing fleas. While this may not seem like a long time to us, some dogs and most cats don’t have the patience to go through this ordeal. Once it’s done, however, it’s done. You can pick out the dead fleas with a fine tooth-comb and your dog or cat should soon feel relief.
The life cycle of a flea is around fourteen days and under the right conditions a single flea can produce thousands of offspring. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
Fleas begin life as eggs that turn into larvae. The larvae are like caterpillars that form a cocoon before hatching into an adult. The life cycle of a flea varies based on the conditions in the environment. While fleas prefer a temperature of 65 to 80 degrees, they are hardy little insects. They can easily withstand temperatures that dip into numbers that are freezing.
A female flea is capable of producing twenty to thirty eggs each day which means she needs to feed several times per day. Flea eggs are tiny. They fall into cracks on the floor and into the fibers on our carpet. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on whatever they can find.
Once the larvae grow, they molt two times before forming a cocoon. They hatch when the time is right—after detecting a warm body or inhaling carbon dioxide. Once hatched, they don’t wait to jump, they find their host and they attack. Knowing the life cycle of the flea gives you a better idea of how to treat fleas. Don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian to see what they recommend. Once you treat your dog or cat for fleas, you’ll need to treat the environment around you. If you don’t clean up the environment around you, it won’t do much good to treat your dog or cat. The fleas will still be there and it’s only a matter of time before they once again, begin to bother your dog or cat.
Start by washing all of your bedding in hot, soapy water. Wash your sheets, your dogs’ bed, anything that might be infested with fleas. Clean all carpets thoroughly, vacuum them, shampoo them, and then get rid of the vacuum bag. Fleas are tough little buggers and you may not be able to kill them completely by doing all of the above. You might need to use a chemical treatment on your carpet to complete the job.
Once you’ve treated the inside of your home, make your way outside to clean up the dog house, or kennel, if you have one. Chemical sprays found at your local hardware store are your best option to treat fleas outside your home.
When the fleas are gone, it’s important to keep up maintenance prevention or the fleas will return. Continue to monitor your dog or cat for fleas and treat them as soon as you see them. Keep your home clean and hopefully the fleas will stay away.
Be sure to read the 2017 Flea and Tick Season Guide, located at http://www.pets.webmd.com. See their site on more helpful tips on how to care for your dog or cat, but as always, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian for help.
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