What are Fleas? Fleas are tiny, wingless, jumping insects that feed on the blood of your pets and your family. The year has proven to be one of the worst flea seasons we have seen in over 20 years. All it takes is one flea to jump on you or your pet outside, and you could have a serious problem in your home just weeks to months later.
Why should I be worried? In addition to making you and your pets uncomfortable, fleas can cause life-threatening disease. Anemia and red blood cell parasites are commonly seen in our flea infested pets, as well as transmitting diseases to humans, such as cat scratch fever and even the plague.
How do I know if my pet has fleas? Fleas can easily go unnoticed by any pet owner and often go undetected in the home for as long as 4 months. This occurs because fleas are very small, quick insects that lay microscopic eggs that can live in hibernation in your home for over year. If there are fleas, you will usually notice flea bites (red bumps), flea dirt (brown-black debris on your pet especially at the tail base) or an itchy pet.
What do I do if I see fleas? Don’t panic. Treating fleas effectively can take some time and will resolve faster with the safest and most efficient products. Since some available over-the-counter products can be toxic to our pets, we recommend you first contact your veterinarian before using any flea treatment product. Speaking with a supermarket or superstore representative is not the equivalent to speaking with your veterinary clinic.
In general, we currently recommend Revolution for your cat and Vectra or Frontline Plus for your dog. These are topical preventatives that do not enter the blood stream of your pet and are effective within 24 hours of application. Please discuss your options with your veterinarian to get the best recommendation for your pet.
Why should I treat my home? Once your pet is protected, they will continue to come in contact with the fleas and eggs that remain in your home. Your home should be treated with thorough cleaning, laundering and vacuuming every 10-14 days for 2 to 3 months to interrupt the flea life-cycle. If the environment is not treated concurrently with your pet preventatives, it could take as much as 6-12 months to clear your home of fleas.
There are sprays, foggers and professional treatments available for fleas as well, which should be approached with caution. They can be very effective but are NOT healthy for you or your pets, so if they are used, please keep treated areas free from pet or person contact for at least a day or longer as instructed by your pest professional.
How do I get more information? Again, your veterinarian is the best and safest source of information about fleas, treatment and products. Please feel free to call our office with further questions or set up an appointment at 908-874-4447.
Jessica Stephens, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital