Are your cats and dogs itchy and trying to scratch and chew themselves to pieces? Have you noticed fleas in your home and on your pets? Dr. Volat has written a great and informative article in the Capitola Soquel times about “Fighting Fleas“ and how the “best defense is offense!” Santa Cruz is known for its mild climate and unfortunately this is a great climate for these pesky little fleas to thrive. Take a moment to learn how our pets deal with fleas, how to get rid of fleas in your home and on your pets, and how to keep them away!
“Fighting Fleas” by Dr. Volat
Fleas don’t fight fair…they are very sneaky little creatures! Despite numerous flea treatments, topical products, and shampoos on the market, they seem to be thriving and bothering our pets more than ever before. In other parts of the world, cold climates can lower the number of fleas in the environment over the winter season. But here in Santa Cruz our mild climate is so perfect for fleas that they have told all their little pesky buddies to “vacation” here year-round. The battle against these little bugs may seem difficult, but the war is not lost. Best of all, we do not have to rely on harsh chemical “flea-bombs” anymore with the advent of green preventative products. With the right approach and the right tools, you can keep your home and your pet flea-free.
What’s all the fuss about fleas?
Fleas can cause severe skin irritation and allergic reactions that can lead to serious skin infections in our pets. Did you know the most common allergen that affects our cats and dogs is flea saliva? Just like when a mosquito bites us, and we scratch the bite wound for days, a sensitive animal may scratch their flea bites even though they are not infested with many fleas. As little as one or two flea bites can leave your pet itchy for weeks if they have a flea allergy! Although a thick coat is a great hiding place for fleas, did you know that fleas spend most of their time OFF your pet skulking around in the carpet or soil? They only sneak on your dog or cat to feed periodically. Many cats and dogs will chew themselves to bits after a few flea bites…resulting in swallowing lots of hair. This can lead to vomiting in cats and serious dental infections from hair getting caught in-between teeth in dogs.
In addition to skin irritation, fleas can infect your pet with harmful parasites. Fleas can transmit blood parasites called mycoplasma which can leave your pet anemic, sick and lethargic. They also frequently transmit tapeworms which can lead to weight loss and malnutrition. Both of these conditions require treatment and can leave your pet feeling seriously ill.
How do we fight back?
The best defense is offense! A 3 pronged approach is most successful: surveillance, prevention, and environmental control. First, For quick and inexpensive surveillance, get a flea comb and comb your pets weekly to check for live fleas or their “pepper” like excrement. Anything that looks like pepper on your pet’s coat or skin is evidence that fleas have been on your pet. Second, prevent infestations by treating all your pets with a monthly flea preventative. There are new options in flea prevention, including oral tablets for cats and dogs that are very effective, much safer and more eco-friendly than older topical products. Third, treatment of the environment is crucial to keep flea populations down. We have so many flea-infested raccoons and skunks traveling through our backyards that this step cannot be missed. Instead of calling the exterminator to spray your yard with chemicals, treat your yard with flea-eating earth-friendly nematodes. These can be ordered on-line, and then sprinkle them through your yard to feast on the fleas. Instead of flea-bombing your home with a cloud of insecticide spray, treat your home with non-toxic food-grade diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is a white powder that dehydrates fleas and their eggs when sprinkled on floors. Vacuuming all carpeting and washing pet beds at least once weekly are also surprisingly effective ways to rid your home of the pesky creatures.
Talk to your veterinarian for help deciding which preventative products are best for your pets. Even indoor pets and pets that do not seem to mind fleas should be treated to avoid keeping a few fleas in the home. Due to the high number of fleas here in the Santa Cruz area, we must protect our pets with flea preventatives every month, 12 months per year. Skipping one pet in a home or missing a dose by a week could bring fleas back before you know it. Take charge and tell those fleas to get lost!