With the mild winter, the fleas are going to be "fierce" this year. Most people agree that fleas are icky: they are creepy, jumpy, bloodsuckers, who at the very least make us and our fur family members ITCH. But the truth of the matter is that flea are oh-so-much more of a problem: they are serious disease carriers. Infestation with "regular" fleas can cause severe anemia and intestinal parasitism with tape worms. They commonly generate "flea allergy dermatitis" in which the flea saliva sets up an allergic response causing a red rash and severe itchiness. Affected dogs and cats will often pull out all of the hair on their backsides: they are THAT itchy! But, get an infestation with a flea carrying certain disease causing bacteria and you can end up with "Cat Scratch Fever", typhoid fever, even the plague?.. Yikes. So, making sure that these little beasties are not on your pet or in your home is extremely important.
Fleas are survivors. Their physical design and lifecycle help to ensure that fleas will be here long after we are gone. A single female flea will produce approximately 50 eggs per day, or up to 500 eggs in her life span. So it is easy to see how getting even one pregnant flea in your house can add up to a huge infestation in a matter of weeks. The adult fleas lay eggs which fall off the pet into the environment. There, they hatch into larva which feed predominantly on "flea dirt" which is the digested blood of the adult flea's host. That's the nice way of saying, "flea larva live and grow off their parents' poop." Once they have matured sufficiently, the larva build a cocoon around themselves and become pupae that can lay dormant in the environment for up to a year. This is the heartiest portion of the lifecycle and is resistant to all pesticides.
So what is a pet owner to do? Fortunately there are several, very effective flea preventives on the market. It is important to point out that they are all different, and a few have some important safety precautions to be aware of before and during use. A few of the products available over the counter can be frustratingly ineffective or have serious toxicities associated with their use. In general, I'm a bit leery of topical and environmental pesticides and encourage pet parents to find the balance between flea prevention and pesticide exposure. Many of the prescription products are so effective that they make things like "bombs" for the house or "spraying the yard" an unnecessary expense and, I believe, a potential health risk for both our pets and ourselves.
We would be happy to discuss the ins-and-outs of flea control with you. Call us anytime!