Pets are at Risk for Flea Infestation

How to detect and treat fleas on your pet

Fleas are a serious seasonal problem in the Midwest outdoors, and our current hot, humid temperatures can cause big problems with protecting our pets from these parasites.

Fleas live in long patches of grass, in gardens, and wooded areas and use their strong back legs to jump on to their host. Even if you take proper precautions, your pet is exposed and at risk when outside. These hitchhikers can drop onto your dog unseen at any time.

Once an adult flea selects your pet’s skin as a home, she begins laying eggs. An adult female, which is dark brown and can be less than 1/10th of an inch long, is able to produce up to 50 eggs per day and has a life cycle of anywhere from 12 days to 6 months.

The most obvious clue that your pet has become a victim of fleas is scratching. A flea bite can cause itching, but for a sensitive or flea-allergic animal, this itching can be quite severe and lead to other problems such as hair-loss, inflammation, and secondary skin infections. Some animals are hypersensitive to the flea's saliva and the bite of even a single flea will cause itching all over. These tiny pests are able to consume 15 times their own body weight in the blood they draw from their victims, which can cause anemia or a significant amount of blood loss over time. This can be especially threatening to young puppies and kittens.

If your pet shows signs of restlessness, scratching, licking or biting, fleas could be the cause. One way to check if your pet has fleas is to get him wet. Fleas hate baths and the tiny black pests will jump for their lives once they have been immersed in water. Also, comb through the fur and look for trails of tiny black specks of flea excrement.

Upon discovering your pet has fleas, thorough flea removal will involve more than just tackling the fleas living on your pet. They will need to be removed from any living space that may have been exposed as well. Fleas nest and breed in bedding, furniture and carpeting; anything in your house that's cushioned and out of sight needs to be treated with a flea-killing product. Your pet's toys and the area in, under and around where they sleep need to be treated, too. And don't forget to check your car and yard.

Once fleas have taken up residence on your pet, your entire house risks infestation. These pests can drop into carpets and furniture and wait for the next victim to get close. The best way to avoid a whole-house attack is to protect your pets from initial contact. Don’t skip your monthly flea treatments, use a flea comb and wash bedding once a week, treat your yard with insecticide or nematodes (microscopic worms that kill flea larvae). Discuss all available options with your veterinarian and work together to build the right flea protection plan for your pet.

Hot, humid summer days pose the highest risk for fleas. Back On Track Veterinary Hospital and Rehabilitation Center has a variety of effective treatment options for your particular pet. Let us help develop a plan that is best for your family.