We interrupt our regularly (okay, erratically) scheduled foster news for this important message.
Do you find yourself scratching a lot?
Does it feel like something is crawling across your skin?
Do you have an itch that you just can’t seem to beat?
Sadly, you might have fleas. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but it happens to the best of us. Your two-leg family may be doing everything right – keeping you inside, using monthly preventative, brushing you daily, washing your bedding frequently – but you can still come down with a case of the fleas.
To understand why, it helps to know a little bit about the life cycle of a flea.
This is a flea.
Ugly, isn’t it? A female one of these can lay up to 50 eggs a day. And they can jump. So even if they fall off (unlikely, given that they have special hairs to help them hang on), they can jump back on. Which also means they can jump from one host to another. One way that inside-only cats can still get fleas.
These are flea eggs.
Unlike with other parasites (like lice), flea eggs are not sticky. They typically fall off you and land on the ground or other surfaces. Places like carpet, the cracks in floorboards, your bedding, etc. And then these eggs hatch into flea larvae in anywhere from 2 to 10 days.
Over the next 5 – 14 days (roughly), these little fellows (and ladies) eat and grow. And they molt three times. They are less than 1/4 inch long and semi-transparent. You will likely never see them. And no, they aren’t biting. They get most of their nutrition from what we in the business like to call flea dirt. But let’s call it what it is – flea poop (basically undigested blood). (Here at camp, it’s usually pretty easy to tell if a camper has fleas within the first day or two of your stay because we will see this flea dirt on the shelves of our nice, white cabins.)
After the final molt, the larvae will spin cocoons and pupate. (Yes, that’s a word. I looked it up.)
These pupae are the last step before becoming adult fleas. (Serious artistic liberty taken here.)
This is also the worst step for your two-legs to deal with. See, these pupae are almost impossible to kill. They are very tolerant of heat, drying out, and even insecticides. Oh, and they can stay in this state for months (maybe even as long as a year), waiting for the right conditions to come out. Those conditions include warm temperatures and higher humidity (“Oh, so some place like Georgia. Wonderful.”). They can also be triggered to hatch by vibrations and carbon dioxide. Like when an animal is walking around where they are. And all it takes is two and we’re right back at the start of this whole cycle.
So what do you (or your two-legs) do? First, keep doing what you have been doing. Keep up with your monthly preventative, but realize that like with any form of birth control, it isn’t 100% effective. (“WHAT!?! Not 100%?!!” Yes, read the fine print.) Talk with your vet about which ones seems to be the most effective. Regular vacuuming (“NOO!!! Not the Monster Vac-Oom!”) and washing of bedding will also help (dispose of the bag or empty the canister outside in the trash ASAP). Consider using a flea comb instead of just a brush. (Rinse the comb between strokes in a bowl of warm, soapy water.) Food-grade diatomaceous earth came also help. This can be sprinkled on bedding/furniture/carpets and can even be rubbed right in the fur. (Make sure that the canister says Food-Grade!) They also make (or you can make your own – just Google it) flea traps. These alone won’t fix a flea problem, but they can help. For most of us we’ve found that, especially here in Georgia, a multi-pronged attack is the best approach.
Thank you for your time. We now (or soon) return you to your regular, erratic programming.
(Original artwork provided by Myra.)
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