It’s estimated Americans own 70 million to 80 million dogs and 74 million to 96 million cats; approximately 40 percent of all households have a dog, and 35 percent a cat. Wow! That’s a lot of fleas! Wait, why am I saying this? Well, let me cut to the chase: the truth of the matter is we need to accept we all have fleas in our home and backyard, even if we don’t own a pet.
Fleas pose a medical problem to our pets and family, as they can cause allergies in our furry friends and transmit diseases, such as tapeworms (to dogs and cats) and cat scratch disease (Bartonella henselea) to pets and humans.
One of the most common myths is: if you do not see fleas on your pets, they don’t have fleas. The adult fleas comprise only 5 percent of the flea population, leaving 95 percent of the flea’s life stages invisible to the naked eye. By the time we see fleas on our pet, it’s safe to say we have an infestation in our home.
One of the most important factors in controlling fleas is to understand that the female flea can produce eggs (40-50 eggs/day) only when she eats a blood meal on your pet or other wild animal in the yard. Therefore, she needs your pet in order to keep the population going (the next generation will hatch in as few as two weeks).
Following these steps can help prevent infestations:
- Use a veterinary approved flea-control product on all pets in your household, so none of them maintains the population.
- Use the flea-control product year round. Not using flea control during the winter months (especially in Georgia’s mild winters) will restart or maintain the flea reproduction cycle, allowing new flea generations for later.
- The flea-control product must kill the adult flea or prevent/interfere with the insect’s growth, so new eggs are not produced, or the ones that are produced are not viable.
Some infestations may require professional pest control treatment. The fleas that you see today hatched from eggs laid three to eight weeks ago. Therefore, it may take this amount of time, or longer, to effectively eradicate the flea infestation.
Veterinarians offer a wide array of safe and effective products. Some products are administered orally, while others are applied directly on the skin; some are used monthly, and one product lasts several weeks. Please consult your veterinarian to find which product best suits your pet’s and family’s needs. Let’s protect our family by protecting our pets.
By Dr. Wilmer A. Bustelo, contributing writers and owner of Woodstock Veterinary Hospital.