Flea and Tick Control
Fleas and Ticks
Few creatures inflict more misery, ounce for ounce, than fleas. These tiny, almost-invisible pests can make life miserable for entire households, disrupting your peace with a vicious cycle of biting and scratching. Fleas can cause flea allergy dermatitis in some pets, and may be carriers of dangerous diseases, as well.
Ticks are another scourge of pet owners that is often too small to be seen. These insects attach to pets and feed on blood until they are engorged like tiny balloons. They thrive in high humidity and moderate temperatures, but can be found all over the country. Ticks may carry and transmit diseases (including Lyme disease) that can cause serious health problems for pets and people.
The Life Cycle of the Flea
Adult fleas lay eggs, which usually drop off their animal host and accumulate in unbelievable numbers wherever the animal spends a lot of time. Dog houses, carpets, sofas and similar places are typically great nesting grounds for flea eggs. Under ideal conditions, flea eggs will hatch in a day or two, but they can take several weeks before hatching.
The eggs hatch into a larval stage, which feeds on debris and organic matter and lives comfortable in both outdoor or indoor environments. Flea larvae can be effectively treated with concentrated insecticides.
The larvae can develop into adult fleas in five days. Adult fleas prefer furry animals, but may feed on people, as well. It’s an extremely hardy creature – it can live up to four months without feeding, and has a life span of up to two years. Fleas feed on their animal hosts, but spend most of their time off the animal. For every flea that you see, there are probably at least 100 lurking somewhere else in your home. Fortunately, the adult flea is the most sensitive to flea products.
Good Reasons to Control Fleas
Fleas harbor tapeworms. Most dogs and cats will eat a flea or two while grooming themselves and repeatedly become infested with tapeworms. A large part of tapeworm control involves flea control.
Animals may also be allergic to fleas. A flea bite sets off a cycle of constant itching and scratching, and your dog or cat will begin to lose hair, especially around the tail. Scratching can severely damage an animal’s skin, causing hot spots. A single flea bite can cause an allergic reaction, so flea control is an essential part of treating the affected dog or cat.
How to Control Fleas
If your pet already has fleas, it is important to remove them without harming the pet. Daily flea combing is a safe way to remove fleas from very young kittens and puppies (less than eight weeks old). For older kittens and puppies, too, frequent combing with a flea comb is extremely important. Keep a dish of soapy water near you to rinse the comb as it comes off the pet full of fleas.
If your pet is older than eight weeks, you can use topical one-time/month application. Although there are many brands of over-the-counter flea and tick products available at supermarkets and pet supply stores, it is critical to read their labels carefully – many of these products contain ingredients that could harm pets and children.
Be wary of flea and tick products containing organophosphate insecticides (OPs) and carbamates. Ingredient lists often identify these with the following names: chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos, phosmet, naled, tetrachlorvinphos, diazinon, or malathion. If the ingredient list includes carbaryl or propoxur, the product contains a carbamate. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the potential dangers posed by these products are greatest for children and pets. Long-term, cumulative exposures and combined exposures from the use of other products containing OPs and carbamates are cause for real concern.
You may want to consider several topical insecticide products that are designed to have fewer toxic effects on the nervous systems of mammals. Generally available through vet offices, these include: imidacloprid (found in Advantage®), fipronil (in Frontline® Gold or Top Spot®), and selamectin (in Revolution™).
All pet bedding needs to be washed in hot soapy water as soon as fleas are spotted. The most effective way to remove eggs from the house is by using a vacuum cleaner. The vacuum bag should first be treated by putting some flea powder, a piece of flea collar, or flea spray inside it. Empty the vacuum bag immediately after vacuuming into a tightly sealed trash bag, and get that trash bag out of the house as soon as possible.
For a particularly severe infestation, or to kill adults and larvae, the house can be treated with flea foggers or sprays, boric acid products, or other commercial products.
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