Fleas: Protect Your Pet and Your Family

Even though it’s not “flea season,” let’s not forget they out there that can invade our homes. Fleas are small, agile, dark colored insects that can jump almost 7 inches in the air and 12 inches in distance. This is nearly 200 times their body length and makes them one of the best jumpers in the world as well as one of the hardest to catch and get rid of. You can’t easily squish them once you get one between your fingers because their bodies are hard and can withstand great amounts of pressure. The best way to kill a flea is to drown it in soapy water, direct contact with an anti-flea pesticide, or by sticking it to adhesive tape and throwing the tape away.

You might be thinking, “It’s cold, the fleas are dead or dormant for now.” While that might be true, there could be flea eggs in your carpet or a warm spell could bring out a few of them in the parks and grassy areas around your neighborhood. Where I live now has been reported as having one of the highest flea infestations in the state and pet owners have been urged to continue using flea products to protect our animals. In fact, when I moved here in August, my apartment had fleas and my cats who never go outside, had to start getting monthly doses of flea medication along with me taking all the precautions listed below to get rid of them. Just because it is cold out doesn’t mean fleas aren’t around. If you have seen your pet scratching a bit and you, yourself, have had a few bug bites, you may have fleas in your house.

Here’s a few facts about fleas:

  1. Adult fleas can live for up to a year without feeding on blood, as a hibernating cocoon. They won’t be able to reproduce or thrive but they won’t be dead, just weak and probably extremely easy to catch and get rid of.
  2. In about a month, a female flea can lay enough eggs to create a population that can quickly number in the thousands if not millions if the conditions are right.
  3. Fleas thrive in weather that is about 70% humidity and range between 70 to 85 degrees.
  4. Fleas adapt to their environment quickly, similar to roaches, and can become stronger and immune to flea control chemicals with each generation.
  5. If you see fleas on your pet, chances are they are living in the environment rather than in its fur. Every flea found on your pet could mean there are up to 30 more somewhere else in your home or yard.
  6. Fleas lay their eggs everywhere in your house – carpets, curtains, couch, bedding, cracks, and crevices.

Are you grossed out yet and wondering what you can do? It seems like it is a losing battle if your pet ends up with fleas and they spread throughout the house.

Here are some techniques that work to fight fleas:

  1. Grooming your pet on a regular basis can help maintain a healthy coat but also detect fleas before it becomes a major problem.
  2. Bathing your dog every few months can also keep fleas at bay and drown any existing fleas. You don’t need flea shampoo, soap and water drowns fleas with no problems.
  3. Using monthly preventatives on your pet will keep fleas and other parasites from biting and living on your pet. Topical ointments such as Frontline and Advantage are commonly used but your vet may have other brands and types as well. Talk to your vet before using any parasite control on your pet. Be cautious if you use commercially available products, some pets have had side effects to store brand products and in some cases, the results have been fatal.
  4. If you do see fleas in your house, vacuum everything. EVERYTHING. This is extremely important for getting rid of fleas. Cut up a flea collar and place it in the canister or bag of your vacuum to kill the fleas. Empty the vacuum after each use so eggs do not hatch and re-infest your house.
  5. Wash all bedding, including yours, clothing, and furniture covers. If you can’t wash some furniture, try steam cleaning it or vacuuming it.
  6. If your flea infestation is insane and isn’t able to be contained or eradicated with the tips stated above, it may be time to call in the professional exterminators. Make sure to keep kids and pets away from the areas that are treated till everything is completely safe to touch.
  7. Cut down on the chances of having fleas by keeping your cats indoors and taking your dog to parks that aren’t too overrun with uncut grass. Stay away from places that might be known to have flea problems like a park where strays hang out.
  8. Speak to your vet if you opt for herbal or natural flea collars as some of the ingredients that are organic or herbal can actually be harmful to your pet. Cats have thinner skin than dogs and can be unintentionally poisoned if they come into contact with essential oils and other herbal oils.

Image from Coral Springs Animal Hospital