Flea infestations are certainly annoying. Flea bites are very itchy, as they produce an anticoagulant to encourage more blood flow. 

Fleas are not picky eaters and will feast on humans, cats and dogs. They can transmit diseases, like tapeworm or even bubonic plague. 

Female fleas usually will lay their eggs 48 hours after feeding and can lay as many as 200 eggs in a matter of days. 

If you are unaware that you have fleas in your home, this can turn into a serious issue, very quickly. It is much easier to prevent these pesky insects by breaking the life cycle and continually treating your pets with flea prevention. 

 

Preventative measures

Flea prevention is available in a variety of methods. The most effective methods are in topical or oral versions, like Revolution or Trifexis, which are available through your veterinarian. 

These versions also help prevent other parasites your pets can come in contact with (such as heartworm, hookworm and whipworm) depending on which method you choose. 

It is important to discuss trying these with your veterinarian before you start, to help decide which method is right for your pet. They may also recommend additional testing for these parasites before you start these medications. 

Other flea preventions that you may try that are available over the counter, include flea collars, or Frontline and Advantage. You typically can purchase these methods at pet stores. 

Some people believe that in winter, or if their feline friends never go outside, they do not require prevention — this is not true. Fleas can still survive in the winter, especially if they are already present in your home, or if the climate does not get cold enough to kill them. 

Fleas also can come into your home on your shoes, or if another, untreated animal comes into contact with your pet. 

The rule of thumb is to prevent fleas 12 months of the year, regardless of lifestyle or climate. 

 

What to look for

Some symptoms to look for, if you think your pets may have fleas are:

•Rash — Flea bites can result in flea dermatitis, which is a rash with small, itchy bumps that can bleed. 

Sometimes, hives may also erupt.

•Severe itching in a specific region.

•Small, black specks — This is typically “flea dirt,” which, in actuality, is the feces of fleas. These specks will usually turn red when wet. 

You may observe these either on the coat, or in your pets’ bedding.

•Fleas — If you see even one flea on your pet, it is most likely they are already infested. 

At this stage, it is important to treat immediately with a flea bath to kill the fleas. 

Make sure that, if you follow up with a topical flea medication, your pet is fully dry before administering it. 

With an oral dose, you may give this at the same time or before the bath.

MEGAN L. FOUCH is the office manager at the Madison Park Veterinary Hospital (www.madisonparkvet.com).