We didn’t have fleas before, but now our dog has them. His itching is keeping me awake at night! What do you recommend for fleas? Do I need to be concerned about fleas after summer is over?
Fleas spread freely among animals. Adult fleas lay eggs in the fur of their hosts that then drop off as these animals go about their daily routine. These eggs hatch and grow into adult fleas that leap onto new host animals that pass nearby. Your pet can bring these unwelcome guests home from the woods, the neighborhood, and even the backyard. You can bring fleas, and flea eggs, home with you in your clothes and on your shoes. Hungry fleas can even pass through screens in search of host animals to feed on. Fleas can become a huge problem if not treated promptly and properly. The adult fleas that you see are only 5% of the flea population. The other 95% consists of the eggs, larvae and pupae, which then later become adults. Each female flea can lay thousands of eggs in her lifetime. Fleas reproduce more rapidly with an increase in heat and humidity, so summer is generally when people realize they have a problem. Animals, both pets and wildlife, travel more in the warmer months and this also increases the spread of these pests.
Winter is actually the best time to work on eradicating your flea problem. The population will become lower when the temperature and humidity drop, and reproductive rates decrease. The adult pests can continue to survive on warm-bodied hosts and in warm houses, garages, and barns. The immature pupae stage can remain dormant for months in the cracks and crevices of your floors as well as in your upholstery and carpeting, emerging as adults when conditions are right.
There are many products available to help you combat fleas, but they are not all created equal. Some over-the-counter products are not only ineffective, but also potentially dangerous to your pet. Be aware that products need to be used only as directed. You can check the EPA website for evaluations on safety and efficacy of products. Remember that the entire population needs to be targeted in order to control the infestation, so look for products that contain an insect growth regulator.
Sentinel, a heartworm treatment available only with a veterinary prescription, contains a flea birth control that is very effective in putting an end to the flea cycle. Your veterinarian will be better able to address what products are safe and effective for your pet than a store that has no knowledge of potential side effects and interactions.
Keep in mind that it may take months to bring your flea outbreak under control. As adult fleas are killed, new ones are hatching from the eggs still hiding in the environment. Re-infestation can also occur if your pet continues to pick up adult fleas outside the home. But above all, in your war against fleas, be sure to choose and use your weapons properly. A family in Muskegon, Michigan, was victorious in their battle against fleas a few years ago. However, the bombing of the fleas literally brought down their house from the resulting explosion and fire. Fortunately, only the fleas were home at the time.
Send your ‘Ask Annie About Animals’ questions to:
Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC
1657 S. Getty, Suite 28 Muskegon, MI 49442
or email your question to: WolfSongEnterprises@gmail.com
Annette Vida is a licensed veterinary technician with multi-species experience in day clinic, emergency clinic and mobile veterinary care facilities. She is also a certified dog trainer with 40 years experience. Annette has been involved with rescuing animals for decades and shares her home with her wonderful husband and many (rescued) animals. She owns and operates Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC, where she offers animal related consulting services and training. Her office is located at 1657 S. Getty, Ste 28, Muskegon, MI 49442. Call 231-740-3879 for an appointment—home consultations also available. www.WolfSongEnterprises.com