I don’t know about you, but I’m an animal lover. I own two dogs, five cats, a horse and backyard chickens. Like most people with my love for animals comes the battle with fleas.
If you have ever had to deal with a flea problem you know how frustrating and expensive it can be. According to a University of Georgia entomologist, while there are more than 2,000 flea species worldwide, it is the cat flea that is most common among dogs and cats. Besides sucking blood and causing allergic reactions, the cat flea can serve as the intermediate host of some tapeworms. Humans usually find flea bites around their lower leg area, but bits can be found anywhere on the body. The bites are usually accompanied by pain, and can develop a small, red, itchy spot. Pets with fleas usually develop sores on the skin from all the scratching and biting.
The cat flea has four growth stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Adults live on the host, but eggs, larva and pupa develop on the ground. The flea lifecycle can be a quick process or can take many months depending on environmental conditions. Because of this, areas that have had no pets for several months can develop a flea problem. Pet bedding, carpet and furniture cushions are the perfect environment for flea development. Outside, the perfect environment for flea development is shaded and moist. Dog houses, flowerbeds, gardens and under the porch can all be hotspots.
The best way to avoid a flea problem is to stop it before it starts. It is best to involve your veterinarian in your pet’s flea control program, especially because some products are available only through prescription. Be sure to check your pets frequently for fleas. If your pet has fleas, consult your veterinarian. Vacuum the area where fleas are found or where your pets roam. Wash all pet bedding material in hot water and treat pet bedding areas. Areas in the house or yard should be spot-treated at the same time as all of your pets.
For the exterior of the home, pet owners will find several brands of granular or dust type flea insecticides that can be broadcast over a lawn or around the perimeter of the home.
These should be used mostly around the shaded areas of the yard, where the soil is moist and where pets spend most of their time. These are the places where flea development will likely occur. Keeping the grass mowed and ranking and removing organic debris from flower bed and under shrubs allows the areas to dry out. It is also important to keep stray animals, including wildlife, out of your yard for any flea control program to be successful.
Pesticides can be dangerous to humans and pets. Always follow labeling and veterinarian instructions.
For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by our office in the old courthouse, downtown Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visit our website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston for more news about your local Extension office.