Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hopping Mad Over Fleas

In New Zealand, February and March are normally the peak months for fleas. Fleas are more active in warm weather and they can survive and breed outdoors amongst leaf litter and outdoor pet bedding areas. This gives the fleas a greater chance of encountering and hopping onto passing pets and other animals, increasing the spread of fleas through the community.

Flea adults hop onto cats and dogs for a feed of blood and to lay their eggs. The eggs then fall off in to the places where the animals sleep. Eggs are about the size of grains of salt. When the larvae (caterpillars) hatch from the eggs they feed on skin cells and detritus in the bedding and carpets. Once grown they pupate. The adult flea emerges from the cocoon triggered by vibrations and body heat from pets or humans passing nearby in the house or garden.

Flea life cycle
Cat, dog and bird fleas will bite humans, particularly in the absence of their preferred host and food source, i.e. their cats, dogs or birds.

There are a few simple steps in getting rid of fleas and preventing fleas becoming a problem in the home or pestering you or your pets.
  1. Regularly treat your pets with a flea drop product which you can obtain from your pet's vet or as recommended by the vet. This will kill adult fleas when they take a feed of blood from the pet.
  2. Spray pet bedding areas, carpet edges and exterior areas where pets rest with a residual insecticide such as NO Fleas Total from Kiwicare. Flea control sprays should contain an insect growth regulator (IGR) which will break the flea life cycle by preventing the parasite developing to adulthood. NO Fleas Total contain an IGR.
  3. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. Vacuuming removes the dust and detritus in carpets on which flea larvae feed and eggs, larvae, pupae and perhaps adults.. Use a vacuum with a sound bag and dispose of the bag immediately after use as it will contain flea stages.
The La Nina weather pattern affecting New Zealand this summer is bringing interludes of cool and damp weather which have so far been reducing the likelihood of fleas living and breeding outdoors. This has kept numbers and spread of the pest down up until now. But February is traditionally the hottest and most stable month and fleas can take advantage of hot dry conditions quickly to cause problems. Be prepared and prevent the discomfort of fleas biting your pets or your family. Treat now and don't wait for the problem to arise.

Did you hear about the dog that went to the flea circus?
He stole the show.

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