A Pet Owner’s Guide to Fleas

Is your pet ready for flea season?

Here in New York, flea season starts in around April and doesn’t end until December. Because we live in the city, many pet parents don’t give much thought to fleas, but fleas are something all pet owners need to be in the know about. That’s exactly why your friends at The Vet Set have set out to provide you with the information you need to keep your pet healthy and happy throughout flea season and beyond.

What kind of dangers do fleas pose to pets?

Most pet owners are aware that flea bites are itchy and annoying, but many of them don’t realize that the threat fleas pose can be much more dangerous. Here are a few of the health complications associated with fleas:

  • Flea Allergy Dermatitis – When most pets get bitten by a flea, there will be a small bump, some itchiness and some discomfort, but if your pet is allergic to the flea’s saliva, it can leave them with welts, swelling and the urge to scratch constantly.
  • Hot Spots – If your pet can’t help but constantly scratch or chew their flea bites, it can lead to hot spots.
  • Tapeworms – Did you know that fleas can carry the larvae of tapeworms? If your pet swallows a flea — say while they are grooming or scratching — they could eventually develop tapeworms, which are parasites that live in the intestinal tract, stealing key nutrients from your pet.
  • Bartonella Infection – Fleas carry yet another parasite, called Bartonella, which can infect dogs, cats and even people! Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, lymph node swelling and seizures.
  • Anemia – Because fleas are parasites that suck blood, biting fleas could leave your pet anemic, which could lead to other health concerns if not caught soon enough, even death. Signs of anemia in pets include lethargy, low body temperature and pale gums.

How do pets get fleas?

It’s easy to see how pets get fleas in wooded areas or forests, but here in New York City, it’s harder to surmise how pets end up with these nasty companions. But, the truth is, your pet can pick up fleas from just about anywhere, including:

  • The Outdoors – Whether you’ve taken your fleas to the park, the dog park, a kennel with a nice play area or even a backyard, your pet could pick up fleas.
  • Your Home – Pets have strong back legs that they use to propel themselves incredibly far. This makes it easy for them to hitch a ride on your shoes or clothing into your home. This is one reason why even indoor pets need flea prevention.
  • Other Pets and Animals – One incredibly common way pets get fleas is when they come into contact with other pets and animals that have them. But, it’s not just cats and dogs that get fleas; foxes, birds, rodents, squirrels, skunks, raccoons and rabbits can all get fleas, so if your pet has had a run-in with a wild animal, they are at risk.

How can you treat and get rid of fleas?

There are many different products you can use to rid your pet of fleas. Spot-on topical treatments, as well as oral chews, are some of the fastest and most effective way to get rid of the fleas. Keep in mind, though, that if you use a spot-on treatment, you’ll need to wait one to two days before you bathe your pet, as these treatments work their way into the subcutaneous layer of your pet’s skin, where it makes the environment inhospitable for fleas. If you don’t wait long enough to bathe your pet, you may accidentally wash off the medication.

In order to prevent the fleas from coming back, you’ll also want to make sure that you treat your home. Make sure you wash your pet’s bed and any blankets or toys they have been exposed to. It’s also a good idea to sprinkle some borax on your carpet, let it sit for a night and then vacuum. This will help to suffocate the fleas. Once you’ve vacuumed your whole home — even the hard surfaces — seal and toss the vacuum bag. When treating an active infestation it’s important to vacuum daily for at least a week to collect the existing eggs and coccoons.

What can you do to prevent fleas?

When it comes to fleas, prevention is, by far, your best option. The fact of the matter is that fleas are infinitely easier to prevent than they are to treat once an infestation has occurred. Best of all, prevention is as simple as giving your pet the veterinarian-recommended treatment or medication every month. Keep in mind that one missed dose could leave your pet at risk for fleas, so make sure you are diligent!

Whether you suspect that your pet has fleas or you’re interested in learning more about how to prevent your pet from getting fleas, turn to The Vet Set. We’re proud to be your go-to veterinary clinic in Carroll Gardens, and we’ll treat your pet as if they were our own. Contact us today!

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