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My dog has fleas. That one statement is enough to make any visitor to my house run back down the walk to their car.
If you own a pet it's one of those unwritten facts that they will, at one time or another, have fleas. One of the not-so-fun jobs of pet ownership is dealing with an infestation or working to avoid one.
To cope effectively with fleas you should have an understanding of their habits and life cycles. I realize that doesn't sound like fun, sitting-in-front-of-the-fire reading material, but knowing what you're up against is winning half the battle before it starts. So here's the low down on fleas.
Adult flea - lives on the host animal (dog or cat), where the female lays her eggs.
Egg - flea eggs are laid on the animal but fall off into the bedding, carpeting, and elsewhere in the animal's home and hatch into larvae within a few days (depending on heat & humidity).
Larva - flea larvae feed on organic material in the environment and on the droppings from adult fleas. I know it's gross.
As the larvae feed on adult flea droppings, they are found in highest numbers in areas where flea-infested animals spend much of their time.
Pupa - after 5-11 days, the larvae produce a cocoon in which they complete their development. During this stage of their life cycle, fleas are resistant to flea sprays, shampoos, medications,etc.
In ideal conditions, adult fleas hatch from their cocoon in as little as 5 days, although they can live in the cocoon for up to 5 months.
Hatching is brought on by vibration, physical pressure, heat, and air; in other words, the your dog walks in the room, sits down and BAMM.
After hatching, the adult flea finds an animal and within 2 days the female flea begins producing eggs. Fleas can continue to produce eggs for up to 100 days and believe it or not, a single flea can produce thousands of eggs.
I know the whole concept of fleas and their life cycle is gross and personally if I wasn't confronted with our three dogs in constant agony looking at me with those big, sad eyes .. well I'd probably ignore the whole flea thing.
What you do now that you're armed with all this terrific flea knowledge is:
1. Control the fleas on your pet - keep them groomed and use shampoos made for flea control. There are flea medicines that we use in my house. Personally, I prefer "Frontline" because it is a gel and I just rub a little dab at the nape of their neck (do dogs have a nape?) and the fleas are ousted for thirty days or so. You can also get pills like "Program" that control the fleas by sterilizing any female flea that bites your dog.
2. Keep the pet bedding flea-free. This is probably what I had the most trouble with because I have three dogs and they don't sleep in actual beds. But, if you can keep the fleas off the bedding, blankets, carpeting or whatever area they stake-out as their own space, your battle is much easier. Some people even studied fleas and they decided that only about 5% of the adult flea population actually live on your dog. That means the other 95% plus are living either outdoors or in the bedding, carpeting and such.
Don't give up. If you can keep the fleas off your pet or at least under control AND if you are vigilant with the whole bedding issue then fleas won't control your life or that of your dog.
The author of this article, Joanne Robbins is an internet publisher of many sites including http://www.jrsbigdog.com where you can find more information about fleas, flea control, selecting the proper pet for your household plus additional health topics. Also read her Blog at http://www.jrsmarketplace.blogspot.com
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