Andrea Crawford of Portland Tails Pet Magazine had the following advice for keeping fleas and tickds during the summer months.
When do fleas begin to appear? By late spring, fleas begin to emerge from their pupae as adults and migrate to the nearest dog or cat for a meal. An adult flea will mate shortly after emergence and begin laying eggs within 36 hours. The flea life cycle (adult flea --egg --larva -- pupa -- adult flea) takes about 35-40 days in early spring and 17-21 days in mid-summer. By late summer, cycles slow to two months or more, and they virtually shut down between November and March.
How do I tell if my pet has fleas? Because fleas are so small and can jump 100 times their own height they are very difficult to find because they can vanish into the pets fur or jump off the animal while you are looking for them. The best way to check for fleas is to look for signs they have been there. If your pet is scratching around his tail area and the inside or outside of his back legs he may have fleas. Search his skin for flea dirt which looks like finely ground black pepper. Run a fine tooth comb through the hair at the base of his tail to see if you gather any flea dirt. Small red raised bumps on the base of the tail and along the outside of the back legs, self-induced scratches, and/or thickened skin on the base of the tail can all be signs of chronic flea allergy.
Why are fleas so bad? Fleas can carry tapeworms which can lead to serious health problems in your pets. Many pets have severe allergic reactions to flea bites and can develop chronic flea allergy. While fleas prefer to feast on dogs and cats they will resort to humans in a pinch. Once fleas are introduced the female lays eggs on the host animal. But the eggs fall to the carpet, sofa, dog bed, or owner's bed where they hatch in two-to-five days. The flea larva feeds on organic debris in the environment. Within a week or two, you can have a home infested with fleas. Because we heat our homes in the winter months the life cycle can continue year around. A female flea can lay 2000 eggs in a 50 day life span.
How do I get rid of fleas? There are so many flea products on the market choosing the right one can be overwhelming. First you need to assess the situation. Do you have a flea infestation? Does your pet have a flea or two? Or, your pet does not have fleas and you want to keep it that way. For prevention or if you think your pet has recently been exposed to fleas bath your pet with a good flea shampoo and apply a topical liquid. These are my favorite as they are not absorbed into the pet’s bloodstream and you can get them to protect against ticks as well. They kill adult fleas and flea larvae so they immediately stop flea activity. If you have a flea infestation you can still use the topical liquid on your pets but you will also have to treat your yard and home. Try sprinkling some flea powder in your vacuum bag. Make sure to thoroughly wash all bedding, especially pet beds and areas the pet spends a lot of time. Treat your home and yard according to the directions on the product you choose.
For a natural remedy many dog owners swear by brewer’s yeast and garlic. Flea collars have mixed results depending on the chemical used in the collar, the size of the pet and type of hair. There are once a month pills, these only work when the flea actually bites your pet which is a problem if the pet has reactions to the bites. It is also possible to build up in the pets system to toxic levels.
You may make it through the summer without encountering a flea problem at all. Just be aware that they can arrive with the hot humid days of summer. Watch for the signs and be prepared.
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