All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Flea "Season"

Fleas.  Dogs and cats are really struggling with these nasty blood-suckers, and based on what I’ve been hearing from  pet parents everywhere, it’s been a bad “season.”

I use the word “season” loosely because we didn’t really get our normal winter break from these pests.  Temperatures in our area never dropped low enough to put a damper on flea activity for any impactful period of time.  Consequently, these pests kept right on reproducing and causing our four-legged family members a whole lot of grief.  What’s worse is that because there was never a break in the flea reproduction cycle, there are more fleas than ever and THEY are all reproducing.  Sadly, we still have several more months of warm weather here in lovely Southern California, so things are only going to get worse before they get better.

If you have been using monthly, topical flea treatments, you have probably been noticing that they do not seem to be as effective as they used to be.  Fleas appear to have become somewhat resistant to these miracle products of the past decade and a half.  There are some new oral flea medications, but several of the side effects associated with this treatment (vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, etc.) make a lot of folks a little nervous about using these prescription-only products.  Additionally, some pet parents are reporting that the effectiveness of these drugs has already decreased since they were first introduced a couple years ago.

Does that mean we all just have to wait until Old Man Winter comes to work his magic on the fleas?  No!

There are a number of things you can do that will help reduce fleas in your environment.  First, vacuum daily!  By giving your house a quick once over each day, you’ll eliminate fleas and their eggs that are in carpet, furniture, cracks between tiles, etc.  My little Pomeranian loves being vacuumed (with the brush hand tool attached), so he gets that “once over” also!  Not all animals enjoy, or even tolerate vacuums, so don’t put your pet through any trauma, and skip the body vacuum if it’s not appropriate in your case.  Empty and clean your vacuum’s waste receptacle after every use.  (Or if you use bags, replace the bags.)

Next, wash your pets’ bedding weekly.  If they are not washable, vacuum pet beds to the best of your ability.  Follow this up by bathing your companion animals with a species appropriate, gentle shampoo at least once a month during periods of warm weather.  The shampoo does not need to be pesticidal.  I would recommend a shampoo that is designed to soothe skin.  Lathering up and rinsing is enough to eliminate most fleas.   Use a flea comb after the bath to snag any straggler fleas that did not rinse away.

Sprinkle human-grade Diatomaceous earth all over your carpet, flooring, pet beds, or anywhere else that fleas seem to be hiding.  You can also sprinkle a little on your pets’ fur and brush it in.  Diatomaceous earth desiccates fleas but is harmless to pets and people.  However, it is important not to breathe in the dust as it could cause some respiratory irritation.  In other words, don’t apply it if you have fans that are operating, or there is a lot of wind coming in from the windows.  I would even recommend wearing a mask as you shake it around your house just to be extra careful.  Many pet parents have also reported good results by giving the perimeter of their yards a dose of diatomaceous earth.
Do not leave your pets outside because they have fleas.  Their situation will only worsen and they will suffer enormously.  The more time they spend indoors—where you can control fleas more effectively—the less of a problem they will have with fleas.  This is especially true for cats, all of whom should be indoors-only anyway!

A word of warning, you may find online recipes for flea-control that call for garlic.  Though it is true that garlic and fleas don’t mix, it is also true that garlic and pets don’t mix.  In fact, garlic is potentially very dangerous to cats and dogs so please do not use it.  In addition to garlic, steer clear of essential oils that are touted to be safe and natural. If consumed or absorbed, many can cause problems.

Finally, if your pet develops more concerning problems due to fleas, such as skin irritation, inflammation, oozing hot spots, anemia, intestinal worms, etc., please visit your veterinarian immediately. Fleas can be far more than just a nuisance and may pose serious health risks to our furry family members.

Hopefully, we will have a nice cool winter this year, but in the meantime, be diligent to keep fleas under control and your pets comfortable.

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