Make no mistake, fleas are tough! In order to win the battle with fleas, your pet will need your help.
In addition to being a nuisance to you, fleas can be a serious health threat to your pet. For a flea to lay eggs, it must take several blood meals from your pet. Left untreated, they can cause anemia and even death in young or weakened pets. If swallowed, fleas can transmit tapeworms to your pet. In addition, one of the most common skin diseases that dogs and cats get is flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). A flea's saliva can cause severe allergic reaction when it bites your pet - the result being extreme itching, scratching or chewing, especially around the base of the tail region. A highly sensitized animal can develop a severe reaction from just a couple of fleas, and it is possible that your veterinarian may not even find fleas on your pet, but still diagnose FAD.
One key to avoiding the above flea problems is prevention. On Long Island, you should start using flea control products on your pets, house and property during April and May, before peak flea season (July and August), and continue to the first good freeze. Starting flea control early is especially important after the mild winter we have had this year. In this way, you can prevent fleas from ever gaining a foothold in your household. If fleas have already been identified as a problem for your pet, the key to a successful flea control program is to treat your pets, your home, and your yard at the same time. If one of these area is neglected during the "de-fleaing" process, they will return, and the entire time-consuming, expensive process will have to be repeated.
There is some good news, however. Recently, new products have become available to help combat fleas. One product contains lufenuron, which, when fed to your dog or cat once a month, will break a flea's reproductive cycle, and thus prevent serious flea infestations. Another product contains imidacloprid, which, when applied to the skin of your dog or cat, will kill fleas on contact.
If you have questions about these new methods of flea control or any other concerns about fleas, please consult your veterinarian.
The writers are Dr. Steven B. Holzman, Dr. William R. Haagenson and Dr. Kathleen Tapley. They are associated with the Nassau-Suffolk Veterinary Hospital of Farmingdale.