Creatures Corner By Dr. Ted Hankes

Special to The North Jefferson News

If you are a pet owner, don’t be fooled into believing that the onset of cooler weather will make fleas problems disappear. Nothing could actually be further from the truth.

We see some of the worst flea infestation problems during cooler months. A hard freeze certainly helps, but does not eliminate flea problems.

During winter months, fleas continue to live on pets and wild animals where it is warm and where there is plenty of food. Unfortunately, they also continue producing a staggering 40 eggs daily.

After flea eggs are laid on the animal and fall off into the environment, they develop into larvae. Larvae are about 2-5 millimeters in length and can live and develop in either inside or outside environments. They prefer dark, moist and warm areas.

They feed on adult flea feces and organic debris found in the environment. Our climate-controlled homes make and ideal place for larvae to grow and develop. They dislike bright light and move deep into carpet fibers or under furniture. If developing outdoors they live and develop in moist and shaded areas where pets often spend most of their time.

So what’s the big deal about fleas? Aside from causing your pet severe itching fits, they can also cause life-threatening anemia due to blood feeding. A single flea can take up to 15 times their weight in blood, during its adult life span.

What is the best way to prevent fleas? Most importantly, you must remember to treat the animal and the environment. Your veterinarian has several topical or oral products that have been tested and proven as safe and extremely effective at killing fleas and flea eggs for a full month.

They are very safe because they are designed to disperse over the skin and are not absorbed into the blood stream as many over the counter products do. These over the counter products may also be toxic to other organ systems of your pet. Many over the counter flea products although less expensive are much less effective, have less residual affect and can even be toxic, especially to cats.

What is the best way to control fleas in the environment? There are many environmental flea control products out there that only kill adult fleas.

See your veterinarian for products that contain insect growth regulators (IGRs) which also target and kill flea eggs. The products at your veterinarian’s office are much more effective at doing the job than what can be purchased over the counter.

Dr. Ted Hankes is the owner of All Creature Pet Hospital (formerly Allen Animal Clinic) in Gardendale. If you have questions or concerns about your pet’s health, please contact Dr. Hankes at 631-6210.

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