By Jackie Kellum
Fleas are athletic prolific vampires
The adult dog flea is a wingless insect with a set of powerful hind legs that enables it to jump nine inches straight up or five feet sideways. Like vampires, adult fleas feed only on blood. The flea spends the majority of its life off the host animal, except when it needs a transfusion. The female lays her eggs in dark damp places, not on your pet Most flea eggs are laid when humidity is high and temperatures are moderate (65° to 85°F). It takes only about a week for the eggs to hatch. One pair of adult fleas can cause three stages of offspring—egg, larva, and adult to be present in your home for almost two years!
Fleas can be an indicator of an animal’s general health. Parasites in general, and fleas in particular, are most attracted to the weak, unhealthy, or very young animal whose immune system is not functioning well. The long-term solution to a flea problem is to reduce your pet’s susceptibility to fleas by improving his/her health by providing good nutrition.
Grooming with a flea comb and bathing are the two best ways of getting rid of fleas on your pet. Concentrate on the areas where fleas congregate, usually around the neck in cats, and on the lower back and belly in dogs. If no fleas are visible but the animal is scratching inspect carefully around the base of the tail. If you find small black particles embedded in the hair, place a few of them on a damp paper towel. If they turn red, they’re flea feces. Controlling the environment involves thorough cleaning and washing your pet’s bedding and tumbling the wet bedding in a hot dryer.
A “natural” homeopathic control route may include herbal sprays, shampoos and flea collars whose odors repel fleas. There are many herbal pet shampoos available that incorporate the essential oils of eucalyptus, citronella, rosemary and wormwood, pennyroyal, or other flea repellant oils. Alternatively, you can use DAWN dish detergent - leaving a thick lather on your pet for 10-15 minutes to ‘drown’ the fleas. Be careful not to let small puppies or kittens become chilled or overheated, and don’t bathe more than once weekly.
There are commercial anti-flea products that come in spray form or as a monthly behind the neck application. There are some very basic and important things to keep in mind when using such products – their purpose is to kill parasites by ‘poisoning’ them. This occurs by the product’s absorption into the animals system including vital organs like the liver. All anti-flea products are not intended to be used on young kittens or puppies 8 weeks or younger, as their use can cause life threatening results. If they are young give them a bath. Products like K-9 Advantix monthly application and Bravo flea spray are to be used only on dogs - it is highly toxic to cats. Discuss with your vet. the animal’s age, the size / weight, and type of animal that you want to treat for fleas, so the most appropriate product will be utilized.
Thanks to Barbara Harkness and Valerie Siegel for their generous donation to the Animal Buddies Pet Food Drive, which helps support Anita. If you have not read their book, “Who Rescued Who: Tales of Street Dogs and the People Who Love Them, check out their website: www.WhoRescuedWho.mx – part of the book’s proceeds helps provide needed pet food. Also, thanks to Geoffrey Kaye for a monthly donation of pet food to Anita’s Animals.