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Pet tips: How to prevent fleas

Year-round protection is essential in preventing a flea infestation. (AP Photo/file)

Fleas are always present in the Northwest because of our temperate climate. They can cause a variety of ailments to our pets and great discomfort to humans, not to mention time, stress and money. Year-round protection is essential in preventing a flea infestation.

Dogs and cats are allergic to flea saliva, which irritates the skin. The intense reaction causes itching, which can lead to skin infections and hot spots. By ingesting live fleas, our pets can contract tapeworms, which are harbored by fleas. A severe infestation of fleas can also cause anemia and, in extreme cases, death through blood loss.

Fleas live on blood meal they get from their dog or cat host. An adult flea, in her brief 50-day lifespan, can lay more than 2,000 eggs, which can remain dormant for 6 months. An adult flea is about the size of a pinhead and can jump about 100 times its own height, making it possible to travel quickly from host to host and from host to hiding place for laying eggs.

The female lays eggs on the host animal, but the eggs fall to the ground, carpet, sofa, dog bed, owner’s bed, or easy chair where they hatch in two-to-five days. For signs of infestation, don’t depend on seeing the flea to determine whether or not he’s there. Look for the following clues:

If your best friend scratches frequently, they may have been bitten. If she/he bites at their rear end especially around his/her tail or the inside or outside of his thighs, fleas are a possibility. Also look out for visible flea dirt, a grimy dirt-like substance often found under the arms or near the rear. This is usually an indicator of a heavy flea infestation.

The best way to battle fleas and win, is through prevention, attack and protection.

The Flea Battle plan:

Shampoo your pet
Bathing your pet consistently in hot water can help reduce the likelihood of flea infestation. A good shampooing can also rid your pet of a minor flea attack. There are several flea and tick fighting products available for bathing your pet at home, check with your veterinarian for the safest and most recommended for your pet.

Groom your pet daily
Brushing, grooming and inspection of your pet on a daily basis will allow you to spot any stray fleas that have landed on your pet and hopefully brush them away.

Kill fleas safely & quickly
Discuss flea control options with your vet to recommend the latest and most advanced method of flea control for your pet. The majority of these products will provide protection for an extended period of time. These products will treat your pet for fleas already present and provide protection for the future.

Protect your home
If fleas are found on your pet and in your home, it is important to remove all life cycles of the flea from the home to completely eradicate them from the area. Thoroughly vacuum all areas of the house, including furniture, and then remove the vacuum cleaner bag from the premises. Also wash all pet and human bedding in hot water. If needed, your veterinarian or an exterminator can be consulted for recommendations to further treat the interior of the house with chemical control.

Make flea protection ongoing
It is recommended to treat your pet year-round on a monthly basis to ensure complete flea protection. It is much easier to prevent fleas than to treat infestation.

Take back your yard
Professional, pet-friendly yard and premise sprays can treat the outside of your home to keep fleas away for good. It is especially important to spray moist and shaded areas of your yard. Spray doghouses, kennels and shelters with an indoor premise spray, and allow all areas to dry before you allow pets and children access to them.

Hopefully, with a little bit of vigilance and preventative measures, we can all enjoy a flea-free household all year long!

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