It’s Never Too Early to Worry About Fleas!

Here’s the deal with fleas: they’re sneaky little pests and even in the depths of winter, a flea infestation can crop up. How can that be, especially if it’s cold and inhospitable outside?

Fleas are the ultimate hitchhikers. And just like every horror movie involving a hitchhiker, you don’t want to give these critters a ride!

Fleas are more than just an inconvenience: they are a parasite. They can cause a plethora of problems for both your companion pets, and yourself. Their bites can cause an itchy irritation and flea allergy dermatitis. Worse yet, they can also transmit a number of diseases (like plague) and the cat flea (the most common domestic flea) is an intermediate host for another unpleasant parasite, the dog tapeworm. These are house guests that you don’t want in your home and you sure don’t want them to stick around.

If you live in temperate areas, fleas are a year-round problem. So if you live somewhere warm and humid, you may be enjoying time by the pool or outdoors walking. But guess what? That same climate means fleas like it, too.

Ideal conditions, especially for young (larvae) fleas, are 75 percent or higher humidity, and temperatures of between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. These larval fleas generally hang out in areas protected from water and sunlight, chowing down on debris on the ground around them such as dandruff or skin flakes, “flea dirt” (adult flea fecal matter comprised of undigested blood), or other bits of digestible matter. The larval stage, which can last for five to 15 days, is followed by the pupal stage.

Even sneakier: pupae can remain dormant for up to 12 months. So, perhaps you’ve been on vacation for several weeks and return home. Your movement in the house (and an increase in carbon dioxide) can trigger that hatching of pupal fleas. Suddenly, you’ve got fleas. Again!

Up north, where colder temperatures prevail, fleas are usually “in check” when the mercury dips. But that hitchhiking habit means you can visit a place where there are fleas and inadvertently bring home some uninvited guests.

Because adult fleas are the only stage that live on a host and feed on fresh blood, if you’ve brought home fleas, you’ve brought home adults that are ready to eat and breed and lay eggs. Are you grossed out yet?

So, what to do? First of all, you want to kill off adult fleas. Applying a flea and tick topical that kills all life stages of the flea helps do just that. You also will want to treat your home and yard. Thorough vacuuming of the places where pupae and larvae hang out is critical. Severe infestations may require the use of a fogger or sprays.

Treating your outdoor areas are also critical. If feral cats, or wild animals like opossums, raccoons, skunks, mice, voles or other mammals visit your yard, those opportunistic fleas may be visiting again, trying to hitch a ride on Fido or Fluffy. That’s why a topical is so important. (But please, only use dog products on dogs, and cat products on cats!)

The bottom line is that it truly is never too early to start thinking about fleas. And watch for an upcoming post…it’s also not too early to start thinking about ticks!

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