As the temperatures start to creep up again, it’s time for the inevitable discussion about those nasty, blood-sucking bugs that just love to feed off of our cats and dogs…that’s right, fleas.
Fleas are not only annoying, they can cause a whole host of problems for your pets:
The most common problem associated with fleas is the intense itching from flea bites. If left unchecked, the scratching can lead to your pet’s hair loss.
Flea bites are itchy, but for a pet that has a flea allergy, flea bites will make them especially miserable. Look for itchy spots, bumps, and hair loss around the base of the tail to determine if your pet has a flea allergy. Animals with flea allergies are likely to chew on their itchy areas, which can lead to infections. Pets with flea allergies will need to be on strict flea control and might even need to be treated with antibiotics and antihistamines or steroids to make them comfortable.
Anemia is caused by the loss of red blood cells. This can happen in the case of infections, certain diseases, and from a flea infestation. Severe anemia is life threatening! Signs include tiredness, difficulty exercising, low appetite, and pale gums. Puppies and kittens are especially at risk of anemia due to persistent blood loss from fleas.
Fleas can carry tapeworm eggs inside their bodies. When a flea is ingested by your pet while they’re grooming, your pet can become infested with tapeworms. Tapeworms are long, flat worms that attach to your pet’s intestines. They’re usually diagnosed by finding worm segments, that look like grains of white rice, in your pet’s feces or on their rear end or bedding. Tapeworms can cause upset stomach and weight loss in pets.
While fleas are definitely a nuisance for your furry friends, they can cause issues for you, too:
Just like flea bites will make your cat or dog itch, they’re itchy to humans, too. Most commonly fleas bite around the ankles and calves and their bites are tremendously itchy.
Ever heard of Cat Scratch Fever? You might not have known that it can be spread by fleas! Bartonellosis, or Cat Scratch Fever, can be spread between animals and humans, and cats get it by coming into contact with flea feces while grooming. While Cat Scratch Fever is usually mild and typically only really effects people under age 21, it can pose a risk for those whose health is already compromised. Symptoms include swelling at the infection site, swollen lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, and muscle pain.
When it comes to fighting fleas on your pet, prevention is the best medicine. If you’ve got more than one pet, it’s important to treat them all for fleas – even if you’ve only seen one flea on one pet. Also, it’s important to know that many flea treatments for dogs are toxic and very dangerous to use on your cat. So be sure you’re only using product intended for the species and in the correct dose.
Spot On Flea Prevention:
Spot on flea medications, like Advantix (for dogs only), Frontline, and Advantage can be very effective at preventing fleas on your pets. Just be sure you’re only using medications intended for your pet – absolutely do not use dog medication on your cat! Also, apply preventatives at the same time every month for maximum benefit and wait 24 hours after applying the medication before you bathe your cat or dog.
Flea prevention may also require treating your yard and your home in the areas where fleas are likely to hide out. Keep bushes and brush trimmed, grass short, and weeds to a minimum. If you have a cat, keep him inside to prevent him from attracting fleas and bringing them in. Inside the house, keep floors free from debris and be sure your carpets are kept clean at all times. Check your pets regularly to see if they’ve got any fleas and remove them as soon as possible.
So what do you do if you’ve already got fleas?
Getting Rid of Fleas
Once your home is infested with fleas, they can be difficult to control. You’ll need to treat your pet, your home, and your yard.
On Your Pet
To immediately kill existing fleas on your pet, use a product like Capstar. It’s a tablet that, when given to your pet, will begin to kill any adult fleas on your pet within half an hour. It’s safe for use in dogs and cats. Then use a monthly flea preventative like Advantage to keep fleas from jumping back onto your cat or dog.
In Your Home
Sweep the floors, vacuum the carpets and furniture. Try a carpet spray on the floors and upholstered surfaces in your home. Fleas like to hang out in dark places, to don’t forget to spray under the furniture! Consider using a flea fogger in especially bad cases. Depending on the size of your home, you may need more than one fogger and – of course – be sure to remove any animals from your home while you’re fogging. Wash your pet’s bedding and toys in hot water to kill fleas and their eggs.
In Your Yard
In addition to keeping your grass, bushes, and trees maintained, you might consider spraying your yard to kill fleas before they enter your home on your pet (or on you!).
Be sure to repeat these treatments again in 3-4 weeks in order to kill the fleas in all life stages. Otherwise, their eggs will hatch and you’ll have another infestation.
Being aware of fleas and treating your pet, house, and yard for them will not only keep your pet from itching, but you’ll avoid the many other problems that fleas bring with them. Remember, preventing a flea infestation is much, much easier than treating an existing one. Have you had a problem with fleas on your pets? Tell us how you took care of them in a comment below!