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Itching to Know More About Fleas?

What are fleas?

Fleas are tiny ectoparasites, belonging to the insect family- they like to live on the skin of their hosts, and people tend to notice the ‘Flea Dirt’ (feces) left behind which indicates an infestation. The most common flea that we deal with in North America is Ctenocephalides felis, otherwise known as the cat flea. Though it is called the cat flea it does not discriminate between cat and dog, it will feed off of either.

Where are fleas found?

Anywhere the humidity is above 50%, you can see fleas. Florida is often called the ‘flea capital of North America’ as they tend to be everywhere in Florida, and commonly live in the sand-like dirt in that area.

When are they most prevalent?

We used to think that fleas were only around during the warmer months. Unfortunately in Nova Scotia we are starting to see them year round. This is because our temperatures are not consistently staying below freezing in the winter months therefore allowing them to live in the environment. Not to mention – fleas can live in your home through the winter months as well.

What effects do fleas have on pets?

– pruritis (itch), annoyance

– flea allergy dermatitis

tapeworm (from ingestion)

– iron deficiency anemia in severe cases (typically young pets)

– can transmit other diseases

What risks do fleas carry for people:

Fleas can transmit various zoonotic diseases such as cat scratch fever, tapeworm – children are especially at risk. Fleas can also create allergic response to bites (itchy rash)

How do we treat fleas?

There are a variety of products available to you – speak to your veterinarian for the best product to meet your level of need and lifestyle. Ideally you would treat year round to prevent an infestation from starting; prevention is the best method of protection! We also say to treat all year round because once you have an infestation it can take at least 3 months to truly clear it from your home. Infestations happen quickly as a female flea can lay 40-50 eggs a day and typically there would be multiple females on any pets who has contracted fleas.

The last thing to remember is that you MUST treat all pets in the home. A lot of people will not treat indoor cats, however we can bring them in on ourselves, and our outdoor animals such as dogs going for walks, going out in your backyard etc. can bring those fleas in (even when treated as fleas do not die instantly!) and then transfer those fleas to the other pets in the household.

Written by Blair Lutes & Amanda Conley 

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