How to Get Rid of Fleas
Fleas are dreaded by pet owners everywhere. Luckily there are treatment and prevention options available. You should always talk to your vet about different types of medication, and what treatment option is best for your furry family member.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are wingless, bloodsucking insects with flattened bodies and three pairs of powerful jointed legs which they use for jumping. Fleas are relatively resistant and can thrive whenever and wherever humidity is above 50% and the temperature is over 68◦F (20◦C). That is why fleas are the most common external insect parasite on pets.
Under ideal conditions, fleas can complete their life cycles in just over two weeks. However, when food is scarce the cycle can last for as long as 21 months. Therefore, flea problems may return to an infested house even when it has been uninhabited by pets for well over a year.
It is important to understand that for every flea on your pet, there are likely to be 100 more at different stages of their life cycles in the local environment. Flea larvae and fleas in the pupal stage can live off organic debris like dried droppings by adult fleas and human skin cells.
Adult fleas start hatching from pupae in response to triggers indicating the presence of a possible host. These triggers include heat, motion, vibration and an increase in carbon dioxide levels. Once an adult flea has hatched, it jumps onto the first available source of nourishment — your pet.
In spite of their barely noticeable size, fleas are problematic creatures that, depending on the severity of the infestation, can be highly irritating or even life-threatening for your pet.
How to Prevent Your Pet from Getting Fleas
It is always better to be safe than sorry. The best and most practical way of raising a flea-free pet is by using anti-flea products. These products may come in forms of shampoos, sprays, rinses and topical treatments. Topical treatments are by far the most effective solution against fleas.
For achieving ongoing flea control, anti-flea products need to be applied regularly. Some products need monthly application, others need to be applied every three months and other products can be applied twice or three times per year. It all depends on the type of product and the active substances it contains, as well as the incidence of fleas in your geographic region.
It is best advised to begin the treatment well before the flea season starts and continue the treatment through the year. Depending on the area where you live, you may need to use anti-flea products all year round.
If you notice parasites on your pet shortly after applying anti-flea products, it is most likely that the flea came from the pet’s environment and will soon be killed by the product. Therefore re-applying before the product’s potential decreases is not needed.
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What to Do If Your Pet has Fleas
Treating the Pet
If your pet has fleas it is important to consult with a vet about possible treatment approaches. Today, there are several different flea treatments available on the market. Every treatment contains a different type of medication. These types of medications include:
- Insect growth regulators (IGRs)
- Insect development inhibitors (IDIs)
- Neurotransmitter inhibitors
- Natural neurotoxins
The ideal anti-flea product contains a mix of several different medications. However, some of these medications can only be used on healthy pets with no signs of flea allergy dermatitis.
Additionally when using these treatments it is important to never cross the species barriers. For example, anti-flea dog treatments must never be used on cats and the other way around.
Therefore, consulting with a professional is always recommended.
Fleas are dangerous because in addition to being literally irritating, they transmit some serious diseases. Therefore, all pets with flea infestations need to be checked by a veterinarian and, if needed, subjected to appropriate tests and prescribed appropriate treatments.
Treating the Environment
The ideal place for fleas to stay dormant is your carpet. The process of removing fleas from carpets consists of two parts:
- Thorough vacuuming
- Applying insecticides
Vacuuming alone does not get rid of all fleas, but it sucks up fleas in different stages of their life cycles. It also straightens the carpet pile, allowing subsequent insecticidal sprays to penetrate deeper.
The heat and vibration from the vacuum cleaner encourage adult fleas to emerge from pupae. Keep in mind that it is important to dispose of the contents of the vacuum cleaner carefully because it contains fleas in varying stages of their life cycle.
Professional carpet treatment with sodium polyborate, sodium tetraborate and sodium borate are highly effective for preventing flea eggs and larvae from maturing. Do not try to treat the carpets yourself with laundry-grade borax. Laundry-grade borax powder can cause serious eye, respiratory and kidney problems in small dogs and cats.
All in all, if a flea problem arises, treating just the pet is pointless. The whole environment and all contact animals need to be subjected to corresponding anti-flea treatments. Additionally, during the treatment period, the pet must not go out. If it does, chances are it will get re-infested and bring the fleas back into the treated environment.