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How to encourage fleas to flee

Original Publication Date: April 27, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

There are several types of fleas, but the cat flea is the source of most flea problems in Texas.

These tiny, brownish-black insects can go through an entire life cycle of egg, larva, pupa to adult in less than two weeks if temperature and humidity levels are optimal.

A newly hatched female begins laying eggs within two days of her first blood meal and can produce up to 2,000 eggs that develop into more breeding adults. That means just one flea on your dog or cat can multiply to 100,000 fleas in just 30 days.

It is not surprising that Americans spend about $9 billion a year on products to control fleas that infest their pets, homes and yards.

When fleas bite, they inject a tiny bit of saliva that acts as an irritant to your pet. The first sign of fleas may be a pet who repeatedly scratches and chews itself. This can cause roughened red skin and even bald patches. Saliva from just one or two bites can trigger a severe allergic reaction in some dogs that requires veterinary attention.

One of the best ways to test for fleas is to check for flea dirt in your pet's coat. Situate your pet on white paper and brush a small section of their hair opposite to the way it grows. Small black bits that fall on the paper are probably flea dirt or flea feces. You can confirm this by placing a wet paper towel on the dirt. Flea feces contain some of the blood ingested by the little beasties, and the dirt will turn red. No change in color indicates just plain dirt.

Fleas on pets should put you into control mode. Groom your pet with a flea comb and check with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can suggest a number of medications to interrupt the flea life cycle and give your pet relief.

If fleas are on your pet, they are probably lurking in your home. Vacuum regularly, paying special attention to rugs, corners, under furniture and under cushions on furniture. Fleas can continue their life cycle in the vacuum bag, so place it in a sealed plastic bag before tossing it. Launder pet bedding frequently.

There is a good chance fleas are also in your yard. Pull on a pair of long white socks and walk in the areas where your pet likes to curl up and relax. Small black critters hopping on your socks will tell you fleas have set up house in your yard. You can spray with insecticides indoors and outdoors to eliminate fleas if necessary.

Consult your veterinarian when faced with waging a war against flees. A veterinarian can recommend safe and effective products for controlling fleas on your pet and suggest if you should consult a pest control specialist to treat your home and yard.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at