Flea Season in San Diego is practically a year-round issue, although starts as early as the end of Winter and ends as late as Winter, for any pet owner. I have found a myriad of information, tips and resources for pet owners looking to combat and control flea infestations in their home and wanted to pass a long this information to you so you know what you need to do to protect yourself and your pets. The County of San Diego has listed the following information on their website:
Fleas are small, wingless, dark brown insects. Their thin bodies allow them to hop, jump and move quickly through hair and feathers. Fleas are usually brought into the home by dogs, cats or other furry pets. In order to live and reproduce, they feed off the blood of humans and animals, such as dogs and cats. When fleas bite humans, it can produce a small red spot with a light-colored center. If an allergic skin reaction occurs, swelling and blisters may appear. Many dogs and cats develop allergies to flea saliva. If an animal is having an allergic reaction to a flea bite, it will scratch or rub its skin until it becomes raw with sores.
Diseases Spread By Fleas
Plague: A bacterial disease carried by rodents that is spread through the bite of an infected flea.
Tapeworm: An intestinal parasite obtained by swallowing an infected flea.
Murine Typhus: A disease spread by the bite of a rat flea.
Prevention is the best way to control flea bites. Take preventative measures before flea season begins in spring and summer. Effective products that control fleas have made flea management on pets without pesticides possible. Here’s a few tips:
On the Pet:
· Several types of products are available to control fleas on dogs and cats. The most effective and safest products stop normal growth or reproduction of fleas. These products cannot be used on their own. Proper management and sanitation is also needed, such as regular bathing and brushing. Flea collars, however, should not be used on short-haired, single-coated dogs–such as greyhounds, whippets, and pointers–because of skin irritation.
· Brush your pet daily and thoroughly with a fine-toothed metal flea comb. Fleas captured on the comb should be dropped into warm soapy water and flushed down the toilet. You may want to ask your veterinarian about flea products for your pet. Do not use products on pets with raw skin or open sores. If you notice skin irritation or an allergic reaction, consult your veterinarian.
· Thoroughly vacuum floors, carpet, furniture, crevices around baseboards, cabinets and other infested areas at least every other day. Vacuum and wash pet bedding, as fleas are most common where pets sleep. Throw away vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag after use because fleas can develop inside.
· Also cleaning with a disinfectant such Lysol or a vinegar based solution or any solution designed for bed bugs and other insects will discourage fleas from making your home theirs.
· It is important to reach places where fleas like to hide when sanitizing and treating. Fleas lay tiny white eggs on the pet, that drop off and hatch where pets spend most of their time. Such indoor areas can be under a chair, on a rug or the pet’s bedding.
· Outdoor fleas live in coastal areas and other places with moderate temperatures and fairly high humidity.
· Outdoor sprays are not needed unless you think there is a large number of adult fleas. Apply sprays directly in areas where pests rest such as dog houses, kennels and under decks. Be sure to follow the label instructions carefully.
· If chemical control is needed, you should consult your veterinarian for your pet’s safety.
The Flea Life Cycle
Eggs: Fleas can lay up to 50 eggs each day. These eggs drop off wherever the host spends time, such as on furniture, carpet, or pet bedding.
Larvae: In 1-10 days, tiny worm-like larvae hatch from the eggs. To avoid sunlight, they crawl into dark, low-traffic areas, often deep in carpeting below furniture.
Pupae: Larvae start spinning small, sticky white cocoons built with carpet fibers, dust and dirt. In ten days they become adults.
Young Adults: Young adults remain in their cocoons until they find a nearby host.
Adults: They bite and suck blood in order to live and reproduce.
Geneva Coats, Pomeranian Review Health and Genetics Editor, has listed some fantastic tips and information for managing fleas without the use of poisons at http://www.thedogplace.org/Articles/DogCare/Coats_No.Fleas_0609.htm. There are several ways chemicals enter the body. They may be inhaled and enter the bloodstream through the lungs. They may be ingested by mouth, and enter through the gastrointestinal tract. They may also be absorbed through the skin (and paw pads) through direct contact. The good new is, that by understanding the flea’s life cycle and targeting your management activities, an effective and least-toxic flea control program is possible. Vigilance and preventive techniques allow most pet owners to keep flea populations under control without using poisons. An effective program must address the flea at all four stages of development. Vacuuming areas your pet frequents, bathing your pet, washing pet bedding, and combing for fleas can effectively keep your flea population at a tolerable level. In summary here’s a few key pointers:
1. Fleas tend to accumulate where pets sleep. Try to establish a single, regular sleeping place with bedding that is easily removable and washable. Wash bedding about once a week to break up the flea life cycle. Pick up the bedding by the four corners so that eggs and larvae aren’t scattered throughout the area.
2. Keep your lawn cut short and either very dry or very wet. Fleas don’t do well in either extreme. Bathing your pet is an effective control measure. It is not necessary to use insecticidal shampoos, most soaps will kill fleas. Use a comb to remove fleas from your dog or cat. Keep a container of soapy water nearby to drown the fleas in. Dish soap works well. Don’t crush fleas with your fingers since they carry parasites and disease organisms.
3. Vacuuming floors, carpets, furniture, crevices and cracks once a week is an excellent means of controlling the flea population. Vacuuming is especially effective at picking up adults and eggs. The vibration from vacuuming can result in the emergence of adult fleas from the pupae stage, the newly hatched fleas are vacuumed up prior to ever meeting you or your pet. Steam cleaning carpet kills fleas in the adult and larval stages. However, the steam can trigger the hatching of the remaining flea eggs a few days later but vacuuming religiously will take care of most of the newly hatched fleas. Vacuum more frequently if the flea population increases, every 2-3 days during the peak season. After vacuuming, the bag must be dealt with immediately or the fleas will escape and re-infest the area.
4. Predatory nematodes that prey on flea larvae and pupae as they are developing in soil are available commercially. The nematodes are mixed with water and watered in to lawns to reduce outdoor flea populations. Nematodes are available from Gardens Alive! (812-537-8650) (www.gardensalive.com). Gardens Alive! is a wonderful source for environmentally friendly, nontoxic home and garden products. Another good company with information related to flea control on their website is Planet Natural. www.planetnatural.com.
5. Use less toxic alternatives to pesticides. Desiccating dusts, such as diatomaceous earth and silica aerogels, kill fleas by drying them out, causing the insect to lose moisture and eventually die. Always wear goggles and a dust mask during application to avoid breathing in desiccating dusts. Cover or remove equipment that can be damaged by dust. People with respiratory problems should not use diatomaceous earth. Be sure not to use glassified diatomaceous earth manufactured for use in swimming pool filters, it causes the lung disease silicosis. Some pest control companies are advertising a natural flea control through use of boric acid (another desiccant material) in cracks and crevices. Diatomaceous earth or silica aerogel can be applied to pets and their bedding. Both are desiccating agents. Work in using a brush or broom. Vacuum afterwards to remove loose dust. Use of brewer’s yeast tablets make your dog less attractive to fleas, as the smell is excreted through the skin. Adding a spoon of apple cider vinegar to the water bowl will make the skin more acidic and unpleasant to fleas. You can also use a 50:50 dilution in a spray bottle and dampen the coat with the solution.Alternatives also include newer pesticide products sprayed or spotted onto pets, such as fipronil (Frontline®) or imidacloprid (Advantage®). Particularly when used in combination with physical measures, the safety and effectiveness of these newer chemical products makes the continued use of pet products containing Organophosphates — and their attendant risks for humans and pets alike — unnecessary.
6. You can make your own nontoxic flea repellents with some natural aromatherapy ingredients. Essential oils such as eucalyptus, tea tree, citronella, lavender, geraniumeem, lemon, grapefruit, orange, cedar, and wood sage work well as repellents; add a few drops of these, in varying combinations, in a spray bottle filled with water: You could also make a flea collar by rubbing a few drops of these essential oils into a cloth collar or bandana for your dog. Be sure to refresh weekly.
7. A recently developed oral adulticide also given monthly is nitenpyram (Capstar®), that when given begins to kill fleas in 30 minutes. All these products are safe, easy to use and if used correctly, the most effective method of flea control. Additionally, some have the added benefit of efficacy against other parasites. Some veterinarians are even recommending a combination of an adulticide and insect growth regulator (Frontline Plus®) as a more complete method of flea control. With all these choices it is best to consult your veterinarian as to the best flea control and prevention for your pet. The choice of flea control should depend on your pet’s life-style and potential for exposure.