What You Need To Know To Keep Your Pets Bug-Free
It’s always flea season for pets living in warm climates. For those in cooler places, spring signals the start of the battle against these pests.
The average dog and cat owner spends nearly $200 on medicated flea and tick products, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Roughly 70 percent of America’s pet owners are treating their pets for fleas, using a variety of products including topical solutions, oral tablets, flea collars and shampoos.
Identifying Fleas on Your Pet
Fleas, tiny creatures the size of the head of a pin, can cause big problems for your dog or cat. They jump from animal to animal and their bites can be very itchy, causing your pet to scratch—especially in pets allergic to flea saliva. Excessive scratching can lead to skin infections.
If you suspect your pet has become infested, push back its fur and check its skin (the sparser hair on the belly or inner thighs are good spots to inspect).
Fleas leave “flea dirt,” which looks like black specks on the skin and is actually the fleas’ feces. Put some on a wet paper towel. If the spot turns red, your pet has fleas.
How Long Will Fleas Live On Your Pet?
A female adult flea can live for a few weeks on your pet and can lay 20-30 eggs a day. These eggs fall off the pet wherever it goes — outside, on your carpet, your bed, and so forth.
The eggs develop within a few days into larvae, which feed on such nutrients as skin scales. The larvae then form cocoons, like a caterpillar. They will hatch when they detect heat, vibrations or even exhaled carbon dioxide, all signs that an animal is nearby. The flea then jumps onto its host.
That is why it’s crucial to treat both your pet and its environment. There are many products available to help keep your pet and your home flea-free.
Veterinary Flea Treatments
Most treatments eliminate the adult fleas while they are on your pet. Four of the most popular topical treatments are Advantage, Frontline Plus, K9Advantix and Revolution. Be wary of using products containing permethrins on cats, as this can cause toxicity. Ask your veterinarian which product is best for your pet.
Program is an oral treatment given once a month for dogs or cats, or by injection every six months for cats. It doesn’t kill the adult flea, but stops the eggs from hatching, effectively ending the lifecycle. Sentinel is another insect growth regulator that works by killing the eggs.
There are also non-prescription products such as powders, shampoos, collars and sprays. They help eliminate fleas, but may not be as effective as prescription antidotes. Use flea combs regularly to help detect an infestation early.
At-Home Flea Prevention
Vacuuming your home will not take care of all the flea eggs, larvae and cocoons in your home, but it will help (make sure you remove your vacuum bag immediately after use and dispose of it). Launder all the bedding your pet comes in contact with.
Use a flea bomb/fogger for your house. Read the label carefully. Remove your pet’s food and cover aquariums before use. Leave your home—taking all your pets—for the time recommended on the fogger, usually about 3-4 hours.
Continue to vacuum and launder, as the fogger will not kill larvae. Repeat the bomb/fogger process in about three weeks if more fleas appear. Hire a professional exterminator for severe infestations.
Treat your yard with an environmentally safe insecticide containing fenvalerate. Use sprays that contain insect growth regulators.
The best way to keep fleas away and keep your pet itch-free is to use a combination of preventive treatments for both your pet and your home—and by checking your pet regularly.
Pet Health Insurance Reimburses Treatment Costs
Flea preventative medicine is an important part of keeping your pet healthy. Nationwide pet insurance policyholders submitted nearly 218,000 routine care claims last year for flea prevention medications for dogs, and nearly 12,000 for cats.