How to Treat and Prevent Fleas
Follow these steps to keep fleas off your pet and out of your home.
With the warmer weather comes insect season. Here in Washington, ticks are not nearly as common as fleas, and we tend to see fleas year-round.
It only takes one flea to causes obsessive itching and subsequent restlessness. At Ancient Arts, we carry supplements for preventing and treating flea infestations.
Flea Life Cycle
Four stages complete the flea life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. After a blood meal, an adult lays up to eight eggs, totaling up to 50 in a day. Unlike most other insect eggs, these aren't sticky and can very quickly fall off of the host onto carpet and furniture. The eggs hatch within 12 days.
Larvae appear almost transparent. It takes up to 18 days before they become the pupa stage. This pre-adult phase can last up to a year. Carbon dioxide--the air we exhale--can trigger emergence from the cocoon, as can warm temperatures (like summer sun or winter heating ducts) and vibrations.
All flea stages are difficult to see with the naked eye, but adults can be spotted jumping off pets. Sometimes you'll never even see an adult flea but instead will notice flea dirt, tiny black specks in in the fur and skin.
Flea dirt can be found by combing a pet's fur backward. What will appear to be dirt is actually dried up blood meal--or flea poop. It appears black or dark brown in color.
To test if the speckles are actually flea dirt, transfer a few spots to a paper towel. Drop water or saline on them and squish the specks. If they appear orange or reddish-brown, you're looking at flea dirt. Regular dirt won't really change color.
Flea infestations can be extremely difficult--and costly--to treat if they're allowed to get out of hand. Even if you never see a flea in any of its life stages but do note flea dirt, you should treat your pet for fleas as a precautionary measure.
We carry oral tablets called Capstar to kill adult fleas. This prescription medicine should be coupled with Revolution, a scripted topical liquid product, to kill the remaining stages in the life cycle. If all stages are not addressed, the infestation is likely to recur.
It is important to note that flea prevention and treatment products not purchased directly from a veterinarian do not undergo quality control. Many pets continue to have flea issues from Revolution purchased online as the manufacturing is different.
Additionally, infestations can continue to occur if the entire home, yard and vehicle is not treated. Boric acid found most commonly in Borax laundry detergent crystals can be sprinkled around these areas for 24 hours. Frequent vacuuming and washing of sheets and clothing can also help in flea clean-up.
Diatomaceous Earth is one of the leading holistic products for preventing small infestations. We carry Parasite Dust which also contains Yarrow and Neem. This can be sprinkled on the pet and in the yard as well as around the house.
We also carry numerous all-natural shampoos and repel sprays to combat these insects. Microscopic nematodes purchased at hardware stores or pet stores can be sprinkled around the yard to consume fleas.
Please note, sometimes flea treatment requires turning to prescription medicine like Capstar and Revolution because the critters are so hardy and evasive.
Many pet parents are in denial that their beloved, clean animal could be playing host to a parasite. But pets are natural feeding stations for fleas. Animals are also curious wayfarers that are low to the ground and frequent the outdoors. It's relatively easy for them to pick up a flea on one of their adventures. Indoor pets can get fleas when the insects attach to clothes in any life stage.
Fleas are very tricky little buggers, so don't be hard on yourself if the vet notices fleas or flea dirt on your animal. Just do your best to treat and prevent!
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