By: Dr. Naama Manor
Contrary to popular belief, only adult fleas live on the dog or cat themselves. The two other life stages of the fleas – the egg and the larva – can be found all year round in the house and yard, especially from beginning of spring to the end of fall. Fleas can live for 2 months without food. They usually invade the house by hitching a ride on the dog or cat from outside. In the house they infest the sofas, carpets, and damp, dark areas. Dogs and cats can transmit fleas to each other. Fleas can also bite people but they prefer animals.
Clinical signs of flea infestation are small black dots on the animal's skin (these are not flea eggs but flea feces), and scratch and bite marks, both mostly on the lower back, root of tail and abdomen. Animals that develop an allergy to flea saliva might show red, inflamed and wounded hairless areas (hot spots). There isn't necessarily a direct connection between the number of fleas and the level of scratching.
Powders – not recommended for several reasons: they supply protection for a short period only, they need to be in direct contact with the skin to be effective so in long haired animals they aren't very effective, and they are not as safe to use as the other products.
Sprays – like Frontline Plus – are very effective and very safe to use even on puppies and kittens of a very young age. They also prevent development of fleas from larva.Their disadvantage is the need to spray the animal from head to toes, not an easy mission with large or long haired dogs, and too stressful for adult cats.
Shampoos – anti-flea shampoos have low residuary effect so this option has to be followed by another treatment.
Ampules – Advocate or Revolution supply the best protection for the longest time (one month). You may wash the animal before you apply the tube.
Be aware that with time fleas might develop resistance to a product so it is best to keep a close eye on the animal even when it is treated regularly.
Environmental treatment: if the animal already has fleas it is necessary to treat the house and yard as well. First vacuum all rugs, carpets, sofas and floors and then spray with a spray that's effective against both adults and larva.
If there are signs of flea allergy (scratching, hair loss, skin infection) – consult the veterinarian
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