More than three in five Americans have at least one pet in their household, with nearly everyone surveyed by The Harris Poll (95%) saying that they consider pets to be members of the family. Comfortable beds that pamper and delight, the best grooming products, and plenty of exercise are just a few things we aim to give our dogs, but keeping fleas, ticks, and other pests at bay should also be a big priority, because of the effects they can have on our pets’ health and comfort. These pests can also affect human health, and can be particularly harmful to small children or older members of the household.
Fleas: Prevention is Better than Cure
There are over 2,000 varieties of fleas on the planet, and worse of all, they are speedy to reproduce. A female flea can lay eggs within 48 hours from having a meal and these can hatch anywhere from two days to two weeks (the warmer the temperature, the faster they hatch). Fleas can live for a full year, laying thousands of eggs. Dog and cat fleas can live on either species so if you have a kitty and a pooch, know that they can potentially infect each other. For every flea you see, there are likely to be at least 10 more cocoons nestled in your furniture or around your home, so once fleas invade, it can be very difficult to get rid of them.
What Preventive Treatments are Available for Fleas?
For both dogs and cats, you can usually choose between topical drops, and a flea collar. These are applied to the back of your pet’s neck to stop them from licking it off. Flea collars are easy to use and you won’t have to worry about your dog or cat transferring medication from its skin to the sofa or other furniture. However, collars have a strong medicinal smell and because they are placed on the neck, their active ingredients do not enter the bloodstream. Therefore, fleas located far from the neck can still potentially survive. Less popularly used but still effective are flea and tick sprays (which will enable you to target your pet’s backside and paws as well as his neck) and oral medication, which can kill adults fleas but does not harm larvae and eggs.
How Long do Treatments Take to Kick In?
It can take a couple of months to fully rid your home of fleas. To ensure there are no hidden nests that can potentially reinfect your pet, give your home a good deep clean. Steam vacuum cleaners on high steam should be considered, since they kill pests without the need for potentially toxic cleaning products. If you have a normal vacuum cleaner, make sure to throw away the bag every time you vacuum. Keeping bedding clean is also important. Wash your pet’s bedding on high heat and throw blankets and beds in the dryer afterwards. Believe it or not, fleas and eggs can also hide in your best toys so if you suspect a toy is infected, it is best to throw it away and buy a new one.
Keeping Heartworm at Bay
Fleas aren’t the only culprits that can affect your pets. So too can mosquitoes, which can cause heartworm, in which long worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels, causing severe lung and heart disease. Some solutions (such as Advantage Multi) fight fleas but also keep heartworm at bay. Others (such as Advantix) repel and prevent fleas and ticks but not heartworm. Compare available solutions and make sure to guard against both. Some pet owners use a combination of Advantix topical solution and Milbemax worm tablets to target common pests from a multifaceted perspective.
Leishmaniasis is another condition that can be contracted by a bite - in this case, the bite of a specific type of sandfly. It is more prevalent in dogs than in cats. Leishmaniasis is prevalent in warm countries, particularly Mediterranean countries like Spain so if you are traveling there with your pet, take precaution. Currently, vaccines against leishmaniasis are available. Scalibor collars and Advantix flea treatments also prevent dogs from developing this disease.
To keep fleas away from pets and loved ones, ensure your pets are treated at all times against fleas, heartworm, and (if appropriate in your area) leishmaniasis. Keep pets away from standing water, where flies can harbor. Finally, consider using a flea and tick shampoo if your pet loves refreshing baths.