by Vanessa Davis // July · August · September 2016

All pets can get fleas ... and the flea problem is going to be worse this year since we have not had long winters with freezing temperatures for an extended time. What you hear about these pests is not always the truth ... so I’m here to help debunk some of those myths. 

Myth #1: A healthy pet won’t get fleas. A healthy animal is a much less attractive host for fleas. However, even a healthy pet can get fleas in heavily-infested regions, so keep a watchful eye out and use a natural flea repellent on all at-risk pets.

Myth #2: Fleas live on pets, not in houses. Fleas usually enter on pets, but they can quickly find refuge inside the house. Carpets, bedding, pet beds, and upholstered furniture make cozy homes for fleas, flea eggs, and flea larvae. If you find fleas in the house, you must take quick action to eliminate them there (as well as on your pet).

Myth #3: Keeping the house clean will prevent fleas. Unfortunately, fleas can infest even the most spotless home. In addition to being brought in on a pet, they can also hitch a ride on clothing and can jump right into the house on their own. Hard-surfaced floors are no protection, either – fleas can live in the cracks and around the edges of floors. Again, they also hide in furniture, bedding, and carpets.

Myth #4: If I only see a couple of fleas on my pet, then it’s not a big problem. More than 90% of a flea population is in the egg, larval, or pupal (cocoon) stage – all of which take place off the pet, usually in carpet, bedding, or furniture, or shady areas in the yard where your pet (or other critters) hang out. If you see a few fleas, it’s certain that there are hundreds of eggs and immature stages in the environment. The process of producing an adult flea can take weeks, or even months. There’s no quick fix, but vigilance and persistence can get rid of even stubborn infestations.
Myth #5: Once the fleas are gone from my pet, the flea problem is solved. If you have seen fleas on your pet or in your house, you need to treat the house with a safe product, and stay vigilant for at least two months. Fully solving the flea problem requires a three-pronged approach of treating the pet, the house, and the yard. Use an outdoor treatment in shady areas under decks, bushes, and trees, where fleas like to hang out.

Myth #6: I don’t have to worry about fleas during winter. Although you may not see them in the winter in cold climates, fleas can live quite comfortably in your house, as well as on wildlife. If your pet or your house had fleas during the warm months, you’re likely to have them during the winter months as well. If your pet goes outdoors and has contact with wildlife, they can get fleas.

Myth #7: My veterinarian can most effectively treat fleas. It is fine to consult your veterinarian about flea control, but be wary of the chemical flea control products they may recommend (see Myth #8). Be sure to research any suggested products before using them to make sure they are the right ones for your pet and your needs.

Myth #8: Chemical flea products are an easy and safe way to prevent fleas. They are easy, yes, but they are not necessarily safe. In 2010, the US Environmental Protection Agency completed an investigation due to the hundreds of reports of illness and death in pets. Serious adverse effects were reported for every product they assessed. They are in the process of increasing restrictions on their use.

Myth #9: Chemical flea collars are a safe way to prevent fleas. These are the least effective control method. Fleas spend most of their time off the animal, so the collars’ effects tend not to last very long. Conventional flea collars which use chemicals may contain potentially harmful residues that are transferred to pets’ fur and can be transferred to humans who handle them.
Myth #10: Natural flea control products don’t work. Although many natural flea control products don’t have to go through EPA-mandated tests because they aren’t classified as pesticides, this doesn’t mean that they don’t work. The natural approach can be effective, and although it is not always as easy as using chemicals, the products are safe for your pet and your family.

Vanessa Davis

Owner of Dirty Dogs Spa located at 929 Heritage Lake Rd. in Wake Forest.