PET HEALTH CORNER: Fleas – and How to Beat Them
Introducing the Season of Fleas: With Jennifer Toof
Flea season comes in early August and ends early October every year. Are your pets prepared for what could be coming? Jennifer Toof of the Ontario SPCA shares all about fleas and how to best them at their own game.
Toof is the Manager of Programs and Education in the Shelter Health and Wellness Department of the Ontario SPCA. She has previous experience in the veterinary field and disease and infection control. She says prevention is key to avoiding fleas.
“Make sure you’re checking [your pets] frequently because they can get them anywhere,” says Toof.
She says fleas can be picked up in dog parks, on trails, or anywhere another dog may have been recently. Though fleas feed on the bodies on animals, they jump off to lay their eggs, so Toof says they can easily move from animal to animal.
Cats can get fleas if they go outdoors too, Toof says. As well, she says fleas sit on many wild animals your outdoor pets could run into.
“If you get mice in your house, then you can actually get fleas in your home that your pets can pick up,” says Toof.
How to Prevent?
There are many ways to prevent fleas but Toof says she suggests speaking with a veterinarian to learn about what products are best for each case.
“Your veterinarian’s going to know what’s best for this species of animal that you have, because there are certain products that can be used on dogs that shouldn’t be used on cats,” she says.
Toof says products like flea collars and powders are repellant but won’t kill the fleas if they get through. Topical and oral medications will repel and kill fleas before they can lay eggs, she says.
The Government of Canada website suggests keeping cats indoors, inspecting your pet regularly, raking and mowing your lawn to discourage flea carrying animals, and repairing window screens and other places unwanted animals can use to enter your home.
The government also suggests pest control products, but Toof says it’s important to pass any such products past a vet before use.
“You want to make sure that you’re getting a product that’s safe for use around pets and safe for use in your home,” says Toof.
What do fleas do?
The Government of Canada site describes fleas as, “small, parasitic insects that feed by sucking blood from mammals and birds.” Toof says many people see them as just part of a pet’s life, but this shouldn’t be the case.
“They’re more than just an annoyance. They can cause discomfort for both you and your pet,” she says.
Toof says pets bitten by fleas will experience skin irritation, itching, redness, and swelling. She says they have hair loss from frequent scratching and biting of themselves. They are also susceptible to anemia, according to Toof, because of the blood loss from the fleas feeding. She says it’s possible the fleas will also transmit typhus or tapeworm if your pet ingests them while scratching.
People can also be made uncomfortable by fleas, Toof says. She says fleas may not live on people but they will still bit them, and some people have allergic reactions to the bites which can cause irritable rashes.
“Once they get into your home, they’re a lot more difficult to get rid of,” says Toof.
Stay tuned for next week’s Pet Health Corner where Toof explains how to check for fleas and how to get rid of them once they’re there!
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