Fleeing fleas

Sunday, April 30, 2006
Illustration by KRT Graphics and Southeast Missourian staff

For such a tiny creature, there's no end to the big problems they cause.


In Missouri, they can be an issue any time of the year. But spring, especially, is their season.

Here's some tips from about avoiding fleas and dealing with them if it becomes a problem.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are more than 200 species of fleas in this country, but the main troublemaker for pets is called the "cat flea" (though it's impartial when it comes to feeding on dogs and humans too).

Fleas remain on an animal long enough to feed and then they jump off, depositing their eggs in the environment. Only adult fleas live on the animals, according to the Animal Medical Center based in New York City. A single breeding pair of fleas can produce 20,000 fleas in 3 months. Eggs hatch after 2 to 12 days into larvae that feed in the environment.

Even when fleas elude detection on a pet, their black poppyseed-like excrement gives them away.

The main problem with fleas -- itching --is due not only to their bites, but also to their crawling over the skin.

But itching isn't the only potential impact on pets and humans.

At Deer Ridge Animal Hospital, Jodi Johnson said potential flea-caused problems range from tapeworm (look for rice-shaped flecks on your cat's tail or rectum) to anemia. In humans, fleas have been found to spread the bubonic plague.

Johnson said the staff at Deer Ridge recommends using a flea medicine that kills both adult fleas and eggs year round, because of Missouri's mild winters -- and not just on outdoor pets.

"The problem is people carrying fleas in the house. Fleas jump on shoes or socks and the pets get them that way," said Johnson.

Eliminating an infestation

Johnson said use cedar chips for outside pets' homes, not straw, because fleas can live in straw.

Also empty vaccuum cleaner bags after vaccuuming, because fleas can live there too.

According to the Animal Medical Center, there are seven basic types of flea remedies: topical insecticides; flea collars; flea sprays, powders and foams; flea shampoos; environmental control room foggers (aerosol flea bombs); indoor premise sprays; vacuuming.


335-6611, extension 128

Places fleas call home

Any fabric (on a couch, chair, bed, etc.) within one foot of the floor.

Pet bedding

The hay/straw in outdoor pets' homes

Vaccuum cleaner bags

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