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Fleas are the most common external parasite to affect companion animals, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Due to the fact that fleas can live for as few as 13 days or as long as 12 months and have the ability to produce millions of offspring, navigating an infestation can be an especially daunting situation for pet owners. Whether you’ve noticed the presence of fleas or you’re looking to prevent an infestation right from the start, here’s what you should keep in mind.
Understanding the Health Concerns
For those who notice fleas on their pets, it’s important to understand the health concerns that are involved. While the hallmark symptom of fleas is scratching, the parasite can cause a variety of health issues, including anemia, dermatitis, and even allergic reactions. It’s important to note that fleas can also potentially transmit tapeworms to your pet, as they’re known to be carriers of the tapeworm larvae. Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that can further negatively affect the health of your pet by negatively affecting the digestive system, and can cause severe health concerns if left untreated. This is why it’s essential to keep unwelcome critters off your pets.
When your pet and home become infested with fleas, it’s not uncommon to see many of them jumping from the carpet and furniture — and even onto your skin, which can result in a flea bite. Medical News Today notes that there are two primary complications from fleabites, one of which is allergic reactions and the second, which are known as secondary infections — both of which should be seen by a medical professional should symptoms occur. While an allergic reaction can result in swelling of the lips and face, nausea, and even difficulty breathing, it should be noted that a flea bite may also become infected, and can result in the affected person having extreme pain around the bite, redness, or swollen glands. Fleas can also carry a variety of diseases that can be transmitted through bites, including cat scratch fever.
Identifying an Infestation
While spotting a few fleas on your pet might not seem like such a big deal, the quick reproduction of fleas can quickly infest both your pet and your home. Signs of an infestation include seeing fleas hopping on your carpet or furniture, multiple fleas in your pet’s fur, and excessive scratching. The presence of “flea dirt” is another telltale sign of an infestation, which looks like brown or black debris throughout your pet’s fur. The weather can play a role in an infestation, and since fleas live and breed in warm, moist places, expect that infestations are usually worse in the summer months.
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Addressing an Infestation and Preventing Another
While the presence of a flea infestation can send pet owners into a panic, remedying the situation can be done through a variety of different ways. “First of all, take a deep breath — there’s a lot of really great products out there that are safe,” says Dr. Douglas Kratt, a small-animal practitioner at Central Animal Hospital. “But you should contact your veterinarian first, because they are going to know the best products suited for your individual pet.”
Treating your home will take some time to completely get rid of the fleas, though can be achieved with the help of consistent vacuuming and disinfecting of furniture and bedding. Thankfully, preventing another infestation can be done through proactive flea prevention. While there are a variety of ways to go about this — including flea collars and shampoos, methods such as oral medications and topical applications also exist. With that in mind, consulting your vet is essential when it comes to getting the right flea prevention for your pet and their needs.
Dealing with a flea infestation can be a stressful and daunting event, especially if it’s your first time. However, by proactively preventing fleas and knowing the signs of an infestation and realizing the importance of contacting your vet, you can successfully navigate the situation.
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