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Flea control requires treatments for pets, home
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Peak flea season is in the spring and summer, but in warmer areas like the South, successful flea control is a yearlong battle.
“Heavy flea infestations can make life miserable for pets and their owners and can even cause anemia in puppies and kittens due to blood loss,” said Jerome Goddard, an entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “Fleas are also important hosts for tapeworms, and their bites can cause skin problems and allergic reactions in susceptible pets.”
There are effective methods for controlling fleas, but they must be implemented preventively. Steps can be taken now to avoid heavy infestations when the weather warms up. While preventive flea control relies primarily on regular use of on-pet flea treatments and regular cleaning of pet bedding and resting areas, control of heavy, established infestations requires more effort and expense.
If you have pets, you need a good flea management plan!
The key to controlling heavy flea infestations is to attack them in all three areas where they occur: on the pet, in the house and in the yard. It is important to realize that success usually requires considerable time and persistence.
“On-pet treatments that are applied topically or orally are the most effective tools available,” said MSU Extension entomologist Blake Layton. “Some require prescriptions that can only be purchased through a veterinarian, but there are many available over the counter or online. Advantage, Capstar, Comfortis, Frontline Plus, Revolution and Seresto are examples of available treatments.”
Reading treatment labels and checking the active ingredients before application is crucial, as some treatments are safe for dogs but not cats. Also, some on-pet treatments also control ticks, while others do not.
“Never use a product that contains either permethrin or amitraz on a cat, as these ingredients are fatal to cats,” said Dr. Kristine Edwards, senior Extension associate in the MSU Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology and licensed local veterinarian. “Different species react to different chemicals. Cats are not just small dogs. It’s best to work with your veterinarian to determine what’s best for your pet, as well as to establish a relationship with your veterinarian in the event your pet has a reaction to a medication.”
Not allowing pets indoors is the best way to avoid home infestations, but this solution is not acceptable to many pet owners. If pets are allowed inside, the risk of flea infestation can be reduced by using on-pet flea treatments, designating special areas for pets to rest and sleep, and cleaning bedding and the surrounding area regularly.
“Flea treatment in homes and lawns should focus on areas where pets sleep and spend most of their time,” Layton said. “Regular, thorough vacuuming and sanitation, especially around bedding areas, is critical for successful indoor flea control.”
Although preventive indoor sprays are no longer recommended, there are several products that can be used to control established indoor flea infestations. Some products control adult fleas, while others control immature fleas, which live off the pet in bedding and surrounding areas. The best control is achieved by using treatments that contain both an adulticide and a growth regulator product that controls immature fleas.
“As with on-pet treatments, read home treatment labels carefully before spraying them inside your house,” Layton said. “Few products are labeled or safe for broadcast application to carpets and furniture.”
In situations where outdoor areas become infested by fleas, broadcast insecticide treatments can prevent bites. Sprays are generally more effective than granular insecticides, especially for enclosed spaces such as under porches or bushes, or in crawl spaces or utility sheds. When treating outdoor areas, give special attention to areas where pets spend the most time sleeping and resting, as this is where most of the immature fleas occur.
Find more information on flea control in Extension Publication 2597, “Control Fleas on Your Pet, in Your House, and in Your Yard.”