We’ve had a strange winter, so I’m curious to know how it will impact our flea issues this spring and summer. How can I get on top of an infestation before it gets out of control this year?
Fearful of fleas in Forest West
Dear Fearful of Fleas,
Unfortunately, living along the Gulf Coast, fleas are always going to be an issue. When we have a mild winter, fleas don’t die-off and, instead, use the warm conditions to thrive and reproduce. This means that by spring, you might find yourself with an out-of-control flea problem that really “bugs” your pets and your family.
Be patient with process
Controlling fleas is a multi-step process and often involves assistance from your veterinarian, especially in severe cases. For every flea an owner finds on their pet, it is likely that many other immature flea life stages, such as eggs, larvae and cocoons, are in the pet owner’s home and yard. Thus, an efficient flea treatment and prevention plan includes caring for both your pet and your pet’s environment. However, it is important to note that no flea treatment plan shows immediate results, so it is important for pet owners to be patient and continue routine care for flea prevention.
Dr. Adam Patterson, clinical assistant professor and chief of dermatology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explains the importance of treating both pets and their environment for fleas.
“The adult fleas owners see on their pet is just the tip of the iceberg as those fleas come from immature and unseen flea life stages in the carpet, area rugs, upholstery, dog beds and shady places outdoors,” Patterson said. “Depending on environmental conditions, it may take a couple of weeks to months for all of the eggs to hatch, so if you don’t keep regularly administering flea prevention to all fur-bearing animals in your home, you are giving fleas an opportunity to come right back on your pet.”
Treat home and yard
In addition to using a flea-control product, owners can treat their homes and yards in other simple ways. For an indoor environment, vacuum thoroughly below drapes, under furniture and where the pet sleeps. Be sure to remove and discard the vacuum waste bag after every use until the flea infestation is resolved. Washing the pet’s bedding on a weekly basis can also help in flea prevention.
Controlling fleas in the great outdoors includes disturbing the flea’s habitat to prevent adult fleas from developing. To do this, focus your flea products on moist, warm and shady areas and parts of the yard where there is organic debris, such as leaves. Fleas also populate in areas where pets spend much of their time, such as under patios, porches and outdoor kennels. Disturb these breeding grounds by raking, sweeping and applying an insecticide.
Monthly prevention key
The best option for controlling fleas is to start your pet on a monthly flea preventative that you give them year-round. This will keep you from ending up with a full-blown flea infestation. There are many flea-control products for pets on the market, including flea collars, once-a-month topical spot-on treatments and oral tablets. Patterson suggests that pet owners consult their veterinarian in choosing the most effective flea treatment for their furry friend, because treatment for the pet is the most important step in good flea control.
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