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Flea and Tick Control


Few creatures can inflict more misery, ounce for ounce, than fleas. These tiny, almost-invisible pests can make life miserable and disrupt your household with a vicious cycle of biting and scratching. Fleas may also cause flea allergy dermatitis in some pets and may be carriers of dangerous diseases.

Often too tiny to be seen, ticks attach to pets and feed on blood until they are engorged. They thrive in high humidity and moderate temperatures, but can be found all over the country. Ticks may carry and transmit diseases, including Lyme disease, that can cause serious health problems for pets and people.

The Life Cycle of the Flea
Adult fleas lay eggs, which usually drop off their animal host and accumulate in alarming numbers where the animal spends a lot of time. Dog houses, carpets, sofas and other such places are often good nesting grounds for flea eggs. Under ideal conditions, eggs hatch in 1 - 2 days but can take as long as 3 - 4 weeks before hatching.

Flea eggs hatch into a larval stage which feeds on debris and organic matter and lives freely in the environment outdoors or in your home. Larvae can be effectively treated with concentrated insecticides.

The larvae can develop into adult fleas in five days. Adult fleas prefer furry animals, but may feed on people. The common flea is hardy; it can live up to four months without feeding, and has a life span of up to two years. Fleas feed on their animal hosts, but spend most of their time off the animal. For every flea that you see, there are probably at least 100 lurking somewhere else in your home. Fortunately, the adult flea is the most sensitive to flea products.

Good Reasons to Control Fleas
Fleas harbor tapeworms. Most dogs and cats will eat a flea or two while grooming themselves and repeatedly become infested with tapeworms. A large part of tapeworm control involves flea control.

Animals may be allergic to fleas. A flea bite sets off a cycle of constant itching and scratching, and your dog or cat will begin to lose hair, especially around the tail. Scratching can severely damage an animal's skin, causing hot spots. A single flea bite can cause an allergic reaction, so flea control is essential in treating the affected dog or cat.

How to Control Fleas
If your pet already has fleas, it is important to remove them without harming the pet. One safe way to remove fleas from very young kittens and puppies (less than eight weeks) is daily flea combing. For all kittens and puppies frequent combing with a flea comb is extremely important. Keep a dish of soapy water near you to dip the comb into as it comes off the pet full of fleas.

If the pet is older than eight weeks, you can use topical one-time/month application.  Although there are many brands of over-the-counter flea and tick products available at supermarkets and pet supply stores, it is critical to read their labels as many of these products may contain ingredients that could harm pets and children. 

The ingredients to be wary of are organophosphate insecticides (OPs) and carbamates, both of which are found in various flea and tick products. A product contains an OP if the ingredient list contains chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos, phosmet, naled, tetrachlorvinphos, diazinon, or malathion. If the ingredient list includes carbaryl or propoxur, the product contains a carbamate. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the potential dangers posed by these products are greatest for children and pets. There is reason to be concerned about long-term, cumulative exposures as well as combined exposures from the use of other products containing OPs and carbamates.

You might want to consider several topical products, available through veterinarians, that are insecticides designed to have fewer toxic effects on the nervous systems of mammals: imidacloprid (found in Advantage®), fipronil (in Frontline® or Top Spot®), and selamectin (in Revolution™). 

Napa Humane's Spay/Neuter Clinic carries both Advantage® for flea control and Frontline Plus® for flea and tick control. Check out our pricing and special promotions for Advantage® and Frontline Plus®.

All bedding needs to be washed in hot soapy water as soon as fleas are spotted.  And, the most effective way to remove eggs from the house is by using a vacuum cleaner. The vacuum bag should first be treated by placing flea powder, a piece of flea collar, or flea spray inside it. The bag should be emptied immediately after vacuuming.

For a particularly severe infestation and to kill adults and larvae, the house can be treated with flea foggers or sprays, boric acid products, or other commercial products.