By Mary Beth Miller via FetchFind
If your pet has ever had fleas, you know that once you have fleas, it's almost impossible to get rid of the little pests.
All it takes is one tiny, little flea to create a big problem. Fleas torture your dog or cat, invade your home, your yard and can even get on you!
The key is knowing how to prevent and treat fleas before you get them. Find out everything you need to know to keep fleas off your pet and out of your home.
What is a Flea?
A flea is a tiny, wingless insect-like parasite that jumps onto mammals and feeds on their blood.
There are over 1,900 species of fleas in the world, but only two affect our cats and dogs: Ctenocephalides felis (the cat flea) and Ctenocephalides canis (the dog flea). Not that that matters, because both kinds can infest either pet, and can even infect people!
The Dangers of Flea Infestation:
Fleas can cause several health problems to our pets including:
- Pruritus (severe skin itching).
- Skin abscess or open sores: a collection of pus underneath the surface of the skin.
- Alopecia (hair loss).
- Flea anemia (low red blood cells in circulation): as the fleas feed on a mammal’s blood, the number of red blood cells circulating the body become few. With a great enough infestation, the fleas can take more blood than the body can replace and cause anemia.
- Poor hair coat: a healthy cat or dog will have a shiny hair coat , whereas a pet in poor health will have a rough.
- Dull coat.
- Depression: The constant itching, biting and everything the fleas are causing to happen to your pet is often too much for them to stand, resulting in a depressed state.
- Weight loss.
Fleas are also known to carry the parasitic worm, Dipylidium caninum, but most people know this parasite by its more common name, the tapeworm.
The tapeworm larvae uses the flea as its host until it has matured into its next adult life stage. When your pet bites at the flea and ingest it, your pet is infecting himself with a tapeworm. The tapeworm then goes on to live inside your pet’s intestine, feeding on the food your dog has eaten, causing severe weightless and a number of other health problems.
In cats, fleas are known to cause Feline Infectious Anemia, a life-threatening blood parasite that is carried by fleas. Your feline can also develop a condition known as Bartonellosis or Cat Scratch Fever, which may not affect your cat, but can cause you to develop symptoms.
Fleas can even kill your pet.
A large population of blood-sucking parasites, left unchecked to take a large amount of your pet’s blood can most definitely be fatal. Older pets, infants and pets with other health problems are at high risk for death by fleas.
The #1 Step You Must Do To Prevent & Treat Fleas:
Learn the flea cycle!
Fleas don’t just cause problems in their adult stages, if you want to get rid of fleas you must treat every life stage or you will never get rid of them.
The Flea has four life stages:
1. The egg
A female flea can lay 40 eggs per day. These eggs are laid on your pet, but fall off in your home and yard. When temperatures reach 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit, they hatch and a new cycle of fleas infest your pet.
2. The larvae
Flea larvae are like little, hairless caterpillars that can become infested with tapeworms to later infect your pet with. The larvae spends days feeding off the digested blood meal left by their parents, also known as flea dirt, until they are ready to form a cocoon.
Larvae can be killed at temperatures of 95 degrees, but they find refuge in the comfort of your home. In as short as nine days, the larvae hatch from their cocoon into the next life stage, the Pupae.
3. The pupae
The Pupae forms a new, sticky cocoon where he wait months to a year until the perfect time arises. The perfect time being when the flea detects the presence of your pet. Pupae fleas remain protected in your homes carpet and furniture until they detect carbon dioxide, the chemical mammals expel when we breathe out.
4. The adult flea
An adult flea that has not fed can live on a host for several months, but once the flea has its blood meal, it will die within a few weeks. A female flea will begin laying eggs 24-48 hours after her blood meal and continuously lay more eggs until she dies (the life span for a flea is 4-6 weeks).
Steps to Flea Prevention:
Now that you know the flea life cycle, you know that each cycle has a weakness that you, as a pet owner, can use against them.
Talk to your veterinarian about a flea prevention plan.
You know that fleas lay eggs on your pet first so keeping up-to-date with a flea prevention medication is the best way to keep fleas off. Flea preventative medications are available in oral tablets, liquid formulas and topical applications.
- Not all flea medications treat all stages of the flea life cycle, so it is important to read the label.
- Not all topical flea products are safe to be used on all dog/cat breeds. Discuss the best option for flea prevention with your veterinarian.
Vacuum your carpets and furniture every day. You know flea eggs, larvae and pupae look for the refuge of your home. The vacuum cleaner works great to suck up those eggs that have fallen off your dog.
It doesn’t require any expensive equipment, or harsh pesticides. Having your carpets and furniture cleaned wouldn’t hurt either.
Brush your pet.
Brushing your pet will help remove eggs that have been laid and it gives you a chance to look for live, adult fleas.
Visit your veterinarian regularly.
Fleas are tiny and move quickly, making it difficult for pet owners to see. Ask your veterinarian to check Fido for fleas at your next check-up and catch them early, before they cause a bigger problem.
You must treat your pet and your home diligently for several months to truly get rid of the fleas. Remember, flea larvae can survive in your home for up to a year, just waiting to infect your pet. Don’t give them a chance.
Follow these tips:
Take your pet to the vet.
Veterinary prescribed flea treatments work the best for treating a flea problem. Veterinarians know exactly what your pet needs according to his/her species, breed, age, weight, health status and lifestyle.
Over the counter treatment often fail due to unknowledgeable purchases and poor storable done by the seller.
Clean everything in your home. From carpets, to bedding, to furniture, everything must be cleaned and kept clean. Remember to throw the vacuum bag away every time you vacuum and kick those fleas out of your house.
Treat your home with flea killing agents or call the professionals to have your home treated with a flea killing pesticide.
Fleas are pesky and dangerous creatures. Remember, fleas hibernate in the winter and become active in the spring or summer. All it takes is a day of sunshine for flea eggs to hatch and latch onto your pet.
Don’t let the threat infect your pet. Know how to prevent and treat fleas before you get them!