- It's not a commentary on your cleanliness. When we mention fleas, we don't mean your house is less-than-clean. Even the cleanest home can be the target of a flea infestation. In fact, infestations usually start because the fleas were picked up outside of the home and brought inside unknowingly. If a pet has access to a yard, dog parks, nature areas or kennels, he is at risk of picking up these pesky hitchhikers who make your home their next bed and breakfast.
- "Indoors-only" doesn't always work. Your dog may almost always stay indoors, but unless he strictly uses pee pads and never goes on a single trip outside your home, he really isn't an "inside" dog. And even if this is the case, an indoor pet (whether dog or cat), is still at risk for a flea infestation. The chance is obviously lower, but there's no such thing as zero risk.
- "Seeing no fleas" doesn't mean "no worries". When you never see a flea on your cat or dog, you might think a flea preventive just isn't necessary. But flea preventives do just that - prevent fleas. These products should be used before a flea infestation is seen so that it stays that way. Unfortunately, a flea problem can manifest before a single flea is even seen on a pet. In the case of cats - who are notorious for their fastidious grooming - you might never see evidence of fleas. However, this doesn't change the statistics. A single adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, so it's easy to see how fast an infestation can start. Once an infestation is present, each pet must be treated along with the home and yard. It's so much easier to prevent fleas than dealing with their consequences!
- We can find a perfect match. We know you might have a bad experience with preventive you've tried in the past, and that might turn you off to the whole idea of preventives. But now it's up to us to let you know the advantages and disadvantages of each product and find one that will work for your pet. Don't want to use a "greasy" topical? We can recommend an oral product instead. Cat or dog have a sensitive stomach? Maybe you would like to go with a topical. In most situations, at least one product can fit the individual needs of you and your pet. Please ask us what flea preventive would work best for you, your pet and your home!
Four reasons to question whether your pet needs flea preventive -- and why the healthy answer is YES!
Think you know about fleas' impact on pets? Test your knowledge with these common myths.
MYTH 1: A few fleas are no big deal.
Reality: You've heard the expression "breeding like rabbits"? Well, rabbits have nothing on fleas -- a few fleas can turn into a massive infestation in a hurry. And if your pet is sensitive to flea antigen, even one or two bites can make him very uncomfortable. Your pet deserves to be completely free of fleas.
MYTH 2: Pets need flea preventive only a few months out of the year.
Reality: In many warm, humid areas, fleas thrive year round. Even in more seasonal climates, a warm spring or fall can extend the flea season to nine or 10 months of the year. Plus, fleas can survive on your pet and inside anywhere! Year-round flea control is best for your pet.
MYTH 3: I've never seen a flea on my pet, so she doesn't need flea control.
Reality: You may be in flea denial. Just because you don't see fleas doesn't mean they aren't there. Your veterinarian can use a special comb to detect fleas and their waste, so ask her to do this if she hasn't already. Even if your pet is clean, she can pick up fleas at any time, so it's a good idea to protect her.
MYTH 4: I can get good flea products at the pet store.
Reality: Over-the-counter flea control products are not as potent and therefore not as effective as the prescription products you can get from your veterinarian. Some are even toxic, especially if administered incorrectly. Your pet's doctor can prescribe the best product for your pet and his lifestyle (does he swim? hunt rodents?) and show you exactly how to apply it.
MYTH 5: Once I treat my pet and the fleas go away, my work is done.
Reality: One of the biggest mistakes pet owners make is to stop giving a flea product after the fleas go away. But you need to provide continuous control for this reason: pets can become ultra sensitive to fleas if they're intermittently exposed. If you notice fleas, treat them, and three months later they come back and you treat them again, your pet is more likely to develop flea allergy dermatitis -- a condition that causes itchiness, lesions and hair loss. Don't let the fleas come back at all, and your pet is at a much lower risk for flea allergy.
MYTH 6: I only need to treat my one flea-ridden pet, not the other pets in my household.
Reality: All of the pets in your household need to be treated -- especially the cats (fleas' favorite host) and even the guinea pig. Some pets are more sensitive to fleas than others, so if you only treat the pet that's scratching and has fleas, she's likely to be reinfested by other pets in the house that also have fleas but aren't giving you any itchy signals.
MYTH 7: I can't afford to give a flea preventive monthly.
Reality: Can you afford to change the oil in your car to keep it running smoothly and help cut down on expensive repairs? Providing preventive health measures for your pet is the same approach. Compared to the stress and cost of treating flea-related illnesses -- and possibly paying someone to decontaminate your home -- monthly control is a low cost alternative.
MYTH 8: My pet stays in the back yard, so he won't pick up fleas.
Reality: Your yard is constantly being visited by wildlife such as raccoons and opossums, as well as other neighborhood pets (cats are notorious roamers). These animals can spread fleas and flea eggs, which can infest your pet when he goes outside.
MYTH 9: All flea preventives protect pets from fleas only.
Reality: Flea products are often combined with agents that control other parasites as well, helping protect your pets from additional diseases -- some of which can be transmitted to you. So keeping pets on flea control is best for the whole family.
MYTH 10: Flea products are toxic.
Reality: Unlike "natural" products, prescription flea control agents have been extensively tested and approved by the FDA. Your veterinarian and the members of this hospital team use these products on their own pets, and they can answer any questions you have about safety.
Know thy enemy -- and make sure your pet, your family and your home are kept flea-free.
Utter the "F" word (fleas, that is) and you'll likely inspire looks of horror. Fleas are every pet owner's worst nightmare. Why? Because these bloodsucking bugs can wreak havoc on your beloved pet and home.
It's all about the life cycle
One adult female flea lays up to 50 eggs a day, which hatch and reproduce exponentially in a short time. Within the next two weeks, the eggs hatch into larvae, very small caterpillar-like creatures. The immature flea can remain in this stage for several days to a few weeks.
The larvae then spin a cocoon and enter the pupae stage. Adults usually emerge from their cozy covering within 14 days but can survive in the cocoon for several months until vibration, pressure, heat, noise, or carbon dioxide jolts them from their deep sleep.
Once they emerge from the cocoon, adult fleas must find a warm-blooded host within a few days -- or they'll die. Once a flea finds your pet, it will live out it's life happily feeding off your four-legged friend. In no time, these hungry parasites can become a persistent, itchy, and dangerous problem.
Fleas usually are more annoying than lethal, but they can spread tapeworms to your pet and other family members. Very small or young pets can develop anemia, a potentially life-threatening condition, because of blood loss from flea infestation. Call your veterinarian immediately if you find fleas on a puppy or kitten less than 12 weeks old or if your adult pet suddenly acts lethargic.
Intermittent flea exposure increases your pet's risk for developing an allergic reaction called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Studies show that about 80% of allergic dogs also develop FAD.
Risk factors and detection
All pets are at risk for a flea infestation. Pets who spend time outdoors are particularly susceptible. Why? Many adult fleas live outside and on wildlife hosts until they find a happy home on your pet. Indoor dogs also are at risk because they can pick up fleas when they go outside to exercise or relieve themselves.
If you suspect your pet has fleas, it is important to act right away. Call your veterinarian if your pet exhibits any of the signs listed below:
~ flea feces, or pepper-like specks, in your pet's coat or on his bedding
~ flea eggs, or light-colored specks, in your pet's coat or on his bedding
~ itchy skin (scratching)
~ biting at his fur or legs
~ patchy hair loss, especially near the tail or neck
~ lethargy (especially in severe cases)
~ tiny, dark brown insects scurrying around on your pet