The time of year is here when external parasites can be a concern for your pet. It is easy to think that YOUR pet will never be a victim of fleas but they are actually more common than you think. Here is some information about fleas that may help you determine if you have a problem and what you need to do about rectifying it.
These little critters can be very annoying to your pets as they bite and cause itchiness and irritation that can often result in your pet chewing or scratching at their skin. Fleas can also bite you and infest your home should they go uncontrolled on your pet. The life cycle is 2 weeks long from egg to adult. We have effective control available for the adult, egg and larval forms but there is nothing that will kill the flea while it is pupating. Should your pet contract fleas and they go unnoticed they can quickly infest your home as well.
Did you know that one adult flea lays 50-100 eggs per day? If your pet has 3 fleas that’s 150-300 eggs that get into your house per day. The eggs fall off your pet and then get into the carpet or the baseboard cracks on your floors. The eggs hatch and the larva then become a pupa which is impermeable to insecticides. After 2 weeks you have a fresh batch of fleas in your home that then jump back to the dog and start the cycle all over.
If you have a summer home that is not used during the winter be careful when returning in the spring. Flea pupae can lay dormant over the winter and they won’t hatch until the right conditions are presented. When you enter the home the vibrations from your movement and the warmth and humidity will all cause the pupae to hatch and you can get an infestation almost immediately. The fleas will jump onto whatever is nearest and that is usually the owners feet and ankles!
Fleas are also an intermediate host for Tapeworm. While your pet is grooming they will often try to remove the fleas by ingesting them which can lead to a tapeworm infection in your pet. If your dog or cat has been diagnosed with fleas then they should also be dewormed for tapeworm.
So you ask ” How do I know if my pet has fleas? ” Not every pet will scratch incessently with fleas. Often it takes quite a flea build up for them to scratch unless they are allergic to them and then they are intensely itchy. Running a fine tooth comb through your pet’s fur will sometimes yield a live flea. If you comb your pet’s hair against the growth plain you may see small black specks in their fur. Fleas eat blood in order to lay their eggs and thus their feces are dried blood. Rough your pets’ fur over a white paper towel to collect some of these “specks”. Then wet the paper towel and let them soak a couple of minutes. If these specks turn to blood then you know your pet has fleas.
If you are concerned about an infestation in your home you can do the “White sock test”. Put on a fresh pair of white socks and walk through the carpeted areas of your home. If your socks are picking up those black specks then you can wet the socks and test for the dried blood effect the same as you did on your pets.
If you see fleas or droppings on your pet then your need to pick up a flea preventive/ treatment from your veterinarian. We will discuss the treatments further in next week’s blog.