One of the biggest misconceptions is the notion that fleas are a seasonal problem. Fleas are truly a year round problem, even in Maine. Whether or not you actually see fleas on your pet, they may be there. Scratching, biting, scabs and dark specks, or "flea dirt," found on the skin can all be signs that your pet has fleas.
Fleas can cause reactions in your pet varying from a mild skin irritation to a severe allergic reaction. Because fleas feed on blood, an extreme infestation can cause anemia or even death in animals.
Fleas can carry tapeworms, too. If you notice small whitish rice/sesame seed/cucumber seed-like things in your pet’s feces or in the hair around his anus, your pet probably has tapeworms, which means he may also have fleas. Humans, and children especially, can also acquire tapeworms by inadvertently ingesting an infected flea.
Because the life cycle of a flea is three to four weeks, it takes at least that long to eliminate an infestation. The first step in treating an infestation is treating all pets with an appropriate veterinary-grade flea preventative. There is no way to eliminate a flea infestation if every pet is not treated every month. Such products include Frontline Plus, Revolution, and Advantage. Please consult your veterinarian before applying these products to pets other than dogs or cats.
The second step is treating the environment. The best way to rid your home of fleas is by vacuuming. Research at The Ohio State University proved that vacuuming kills 96% of adult fleas and 100% of young fleas. This is an easy way to deal with the fleas living in your carpet and fabrics, but needs to be done every 2-3 days for at least four weeks.
When vacuuming, pay special attention to the places fleas like best. Immature fleas shy away from light, burying themselves in carpets, fabrics, and nooks and crannies. Be sure to focus your efforts on areas that are shady or dark. When you are done vacuuming, put the vacuum bag in a garbage bag, seal it tightly, and put it in an outdoor trash container.
Wash your pet’s bedding once a week for at least four weeks. Or throw it away.
The continued emergence of fleas in a home and the presence of fleas on pets for several weeks after treatment is actually quite normal. Flea eggs deposited in the premises before treatment continue to develop, and fleas will emerge for at least a couple months thereafter, regardless of type of pet treatment. In fact, the problem often worsens before it improves, depending on the number of eggs deposited and survivability of larvae. Area sprays and foggers (bombs) may help decrease the flea burden but will not eliminate it. Particularly, the pupal stage of the flea life cycle is extremely resistant to nearly all sprays and foggers.
The last step to consider when battling a flea infestation is the possibility of a wildlife reservoir. Feral cats, mice, raccoons, coyotes, and foxes can be infested with the same fleas that infest dogs and cats. Preventing access of these animals to your property is an important part of any flea eradication program.