Let’s face it: Fleas are nasty parasites and are difficult to eradicate. Anyone who has suffered through an infestation of fleas knows these bugs are programmed to survive. In ideal conditions, fleas can complete their life cycle in just 12 days and add thousands of new flea offspring to the environment. Understanding some common false flea facts can help keep your pet itch-free this year.
Myth no. 1: Fleas go away during winter. While it is true that a good part of the country sees a decrease in fleas during the colder months, they can survive through the winter by taking advantage of our own desires to be comfortable. Fleas thrive at temperatures above 65 degrees, making our homes a perfect winter refuge.
Myth no. 2: Natural remedies are safe and effective flea control methods. For many pet owners, avoiding man-made chemicals is vitally important; however, organic products are often ineffective at controlling fleas. One favorite, garlic, is purported to repel fleas, but scientific studies showed no effect. Anecdotal evidence may abound, but chances are pet owners who use these products are lucky enough to avoid flea colonies in the first place.
Myth no. 3: Chemical pesticides are harmful to pets and to the environment. Historically, this is true. Organophosphates such as Diazanon have been banned by the EPA due to cancer-causing properties and environmental impacts. But newer advances in pest control have given us safe products that can be used on our pets without fear of damaging the environment.
Myth no. 4: Fleas are resistant to these new chemicals – even the products my veterinarian has. With stories of super-bug bacteria making headlines, it is not difficult to imagine a super flea that shakes off pesticides like water. The truth is that current products available through veterinarians have a great track record of killing fleas. Experts state that resistance to these products has not occurred yet, and most perceived product failures are likely due to excessive numbers of fleas in the environment or inappropriate application.
Myth no. 5: There is no difference between flea products from the grocery store and the veterinary products. Unfortunately, this myth is the cause of many emergency room visits and pet deaths. Products that are found in mass merchants may contain older insecticides. This could mean that they are simply less effective; but in some cases, these products have actually killed pets, especially cats.
Don’t leave your pet’s comfort and your safety in the hands of someone who doesn’t know your pet. See your veterinarian for the best advice on avoiding flea infestation. Oral formulations as well as topical products are available, and your veterinarian will help you choose.
By Dr. Sara Lash
Dr. Sara Lash is a veterinarian with Healthy Pets Mobile Vet.