Oh no, it’s FLEA SEASON!!! (again!) Actually, fleas are active whenever there isn’t a frost. This means that they could be on your pet and in your yard, well into the autumn months, and come out fairly early in the Spring too. They could also be brought indoors. Flea infestations can happen year-round, but spring and fall are commonly the most intense periods. Temperature swings along with humidity make ideal conditions for flea uprisings. It will take consistent temperatures really below 50 degrees to put an end (at least for a while) the risks of fleas and ticks.
Fleas are “parasites.” A parasite is an organism that lives in or on a larger organism, and at the expense of the larger organism. Think of the larger organism as the host for the parasite. While some parasites may not cause problems, others can cause annoyance, discomfort, and health problems for the host.
Fleas are small and have no wings. Not only do they choose dogs as their hosts, but also cats, rodents, pigs, and humans. Adult fleas suck blood from their hosts, and they can survive for months while waiting for their next victim.
Of the many species of fleas, the most prevalent species is “Ctenocephalides felis,” also known as the cat flea. Though it is called a “cat” flea, it may choose dogs as hosts. There is a dog flea too, “Ctenocephalides canis.” However, it is less common than the “cat flea.”
The female flea lays up to 25 eggs a day. The host pet is often the choice egg-laying site for dog and cat fleas. What humans and pets find a comfortable environment, so do these fleas. They too are comfortable in temperatures from the mid-’60s to mid- 80’s degrees (Fahrenheit). Does this sound like the temperature range of your home?
Eggs must incubate for several days, and then hatch. At this point, they are larvae, and they look to burrow into the dark and what they consider to be a safe place. Think furniture and rugs in homes, or leaves outdoors. They survive off dried blood and organic substances for several weeks. Next comes the cocoon stage. During this stage, they are in a process called, “pupate.” The cocoon protects them from extreme temperatures and insecticides. Studies indicate they can remain in this stage for as long as one year or more. When do they hatch? Pupae hatch when the dinner bell rings, in other words, they sense food is near.
Dogs and cats pick up fleas from other flea-infested animals or environments. After grooming including a de-fleaing the dog can once again pick up fleas, so pet owners must follow a preventative problem and eradicate fleas from their living environments.
Be A Flea Detective!
Detecting fleas is simple. You can easily learn how to part the hair coat and look for evidence of infestation. Using a flea comb, available at Four Muddy Paws, comb the dog on a bright clean surface. Make sure you comb close to the skin and put your hair and skin flakes on a white sheet of paper. Drop a few drops of water on the hair and look for tiny black specks on the surface and comb; they might be flea feces. The flea dirt turns red this can indicate the dried blood part of the feces. If it just turns brown or muddy, most likely that’s just dirt. Heavily infested dogs will scratch persistently and often irritate their skin further
The Independent Traveler – Fleas don’t spend a lifetime on our pet!
Each flea does not spend the whole day on a pet. In fact, it is thought that they spend as little as 10 or 15 minutes a day on your pet. In the late 1800’s they used the term “jumpers” when speaking about fleas. They hop on to eat and lay eggs and then hop off to hide in carpet, bedding, and furniture. Make sure you wash all their pet beds, blankets, etc and vacuum the area and discard the vacuum bag after cleaning. You can even sprinkle diatomaceous earth (DE) in the area where there were fleas and even in between the floorboards on wooden floors. It works as a desiccant to kill the fleas by drying out their exoskeleton. DE is safe and can be used directly on your pet. Just make sure you put it on very carefully. It’s a very light powder and inhaling too much can be irritating to you and your pet. It will help to kill the fleas already on your pet – but it’s not a quick kill. It will take a few days to do the trick.
Common Medical Problems Associated with Fleas:
Flea bites can cause red, itchy spots. The flea bite is where the flea has left some of its salivae in the skin. Some pets develop an allergic response to flea bite saliva. When this happens it is called, “flea allergy dermatitis.” More dogs than cats develop this reaction. The most common symptoms are excessive scratching around the groin, tail, and backside along with small scabs and bumps sometimes along the back and neck.
Fleas can introduce tapeworms too. The infested pet should be checked for tapeworms by their veterinarian. The veterinarian finding tapeworms will provide treatment for the pet, and the pet’s home environment. You can actually see the tapeworms in your pet’s stools – they’re visible with the naked eye. They look like little flat grains of rice and stand out pretty well. If you see this, take your dog to your Vet. It’s an easy treatment but obviously, check all your pets and your home as there is a good possibility your pets and your home have fleas.
There are many different products on the market to battle fleas although some of them are not safe for some pets. Make sure to always consult your veterinarian before deciding on a flea prevention program.
At Four Muddy Paws, we have safe flea & tick shampoos to use either in our Grooming Salon or our Self-Service Pet Wash. We also carry other natural products that can help you control those uninvited guests!