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Cleanliness Fights Flea Infestation
By Kelli McPhail
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Pets are a vital part of many families, but creating an environment where animals and owners can live without fleas may take a little extra cleaning inside and outside the home.
Dr. Richard Hopper, a Mississippi State University Extension Service veterinarian, said fleas do not just live on animals, but they also live in the animal's environment.
"Fleas drop off where pets play, sleep and eat," Hopper said. "Keeping all areas of your house and yard clean is important to keep fleas from taking over."
Fleas hide around baseboards, in cracks in floors and in hard to reach areas. Adult fleas, reddish brown and wingless, need to feed off an animal host, but can live for about two weeks without feeding.
"Females lay eggs on a host animal, in bedding, on floors, carpets and in sidewalk cracks," Hopper said. "These larvae feed on dirt, body waste and debris for about a month and then they look for an animal."
Vacuuming and changing bedding frequently helps prevent fleas from remaining in the house and reproducing.
"Just treating the animal will not get rid of the fleas," Hopper said. "When the animal goes back to its normal living area, it will get more fleas. Living areas should be treated at the same time as the animal."
Treat furniture, bedding and other household areas with an insecticide suitable for inside use. Outside areas should not have weeds or piled debris where fleas can live.
Hopper said cats are sensitive to the chemicals in powders and sprays, and extra caution should be taken when deciding how to remove the fleas.
"Cats lick themselves more than other animals do, so they swallow more of the insects," Hopper said. "Carefully read what kind of animal the spray or dust should be used for. This is important for the safety of any animal, especially cats."
Fleas hide around ears, in armpits, between paws and skin folds, and at the base of the tail. If a dust is used, cover the pet completely and work it into the animal's coat. Keep flea powder out of the eyes because some powders can irritate them. When using a spray, completely wet the animal with the spray so areas are not missed.
"Flea collars can be used, but the pets may chew on them," Hopper said. "Check the instructions to be sure the chemicals are not harmful to the animal that will be wearing the collar or to children that will be around the pet."
Hopper also said to consult a veterinarian about products that can prevent the breeding life cycle of fleas.
Contact: Dr. Richard Hopper, (601) 325-2194