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Fleas are an external parasite of our pets that can cause a variety of issues in our pets and can carry infectious conditions, such as cat scratch disease, that we can catch as well. While fleas thrive in warm, humid environments, living in the north does not make us immune to this pest. Fleas can easily infest a home in Maine, and live outside during the summer months with no problems. Unseasonably warm winter days can also allow for fleas to reproduce outdoors. The following will discuss signs of fleas, the flea life cycle, and ways to treat for infestations.
Signs of Fleas
Not seeing fleas does not mean your pet is not affected by this parasite. Healthy animals are often very effective at keeping themselves well groomed so that only one or two fleas will be on them at any given time. Flea dirt – dark flecks of digested blood – is sometimes visible in your pet’s hair coat. Animals that have a flea allergy will experience hair loss and itchiness, often to the point of causing themselves to bleed.
Flea Life Cycle
Fleas lay eggs in your pet’s hair coat and these eggs then fall off. The eggs develop into larvae in the environment, feeding on the adult flea feces that also drops off your pet. The larvae will spin cocoons, usually in carpet, to pupate. These pupae can lie dormant for months until they are stimulated to emerge as adult fleas by vibration, warming, or elevated carbon dioxide levels. New fleas need to find a host within a few days. This life cycle can take months or be as short as 16 days when conditions are right.
The best way to control fleas is to treat year round with a topical flea preventive such as Frontline or Advantix because this will kill fleas currently on your pet and also kill any newly emerged fleas that jump onto your pet during the 30 days that the topical product is effective. If your pet currently has fleas, we can also give an oral medication that quickly kills adult fleas. To try and remove eggs, larvae, and pupae from the environment you should vacuum throughout your home including chairs and couches. Wash all the bedding in your home. There are also sprays for indoor and outdoor applications to kill adults and their eggs, but pupae are extremely resistant to insecticides, freezing, and drying.
If you think your pet might have fleas, please call us at 223-2596.