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North Country SPCA 3-21-09

The recent warmer days have definitely brought about a rush of Spring Fever... as thoughts of gardening and sunny days fill our thoughts, it's also important to remember that springtime is flea time - and there is no time like the present to start focusing on flea control. These pesky insects are incredibly hardy and difficult to eradicate once they have infested your home. The flea body is hard and nearly armor-like: it is almost impossible to "squish" them or kill them in your hand. They are adapted to adjust their life cycle to changes in the environment, choosing the most hospitable time to become active. The pupal stage flea, for example, can lie dormant in your carpet for an entire year! Female fleas can lay up to 50 eggs per day, or 500-600 eggs over several months - which explains how a flea population can increase exponentially in a short amount of time.

How do you eliminate a flea problem? Medicated shampoos, when used as directed, are effective when trying to rid your pet of a large number of fleas. However, these shampoos are non-lasting, and you may find more fleas on your pet in as little as a week. Flea dips are strong chemical rinses that last 1-2 weeks, but they are not recommended due to the high amount of residue on the animal. Both are primarily used on adult fleas. Flea collars operate either by being absorbed into the pet's subcutaneous fat layer, or producing a gas which is toxic to fleas. The collar that has absorbing chemicals is more effective. Most collars affect only adult fleas, but some collars now also contain a hormone that affects insect growth.

Flea powders and sprays last approximately 2-3 days, and also primarily target adult fleas. Spot-on treatments such as Frontline and Advantage last approximately one month. Some of these also contain insect growth regulator hormone. Oral medications such as Program and Sentinel work by affecting the breeding female flea's ability to produce hatching eggs. These medications break the flea life cycle. You may want to use a combination of treatments for your pet.

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