Has your pet fallen victim to San Diego flea season?
If so, you’re not alone. If you’ve never had to deal with fleas, we hope you never do. Regardless, now is the perfect time to learn your flea ABCs, so let’s jump right in.
What are fleas?
Fleas are small insects that thrive in optimal environments and seek hosts like dogs, cats—even humans. These wingless parasites will jump from host to host only to latch on, bite, lay eggs, and generally terrorize the household while hiding deep within the fur of your beloved animal.
How do dogs get fleas?
You might mistakenly assume flea ridden dogs live in filthy environments. This is simply not true. They can be picked up from other animals at the dog park or from your own backyard. San Diego tourists aren’t the only ones who prefer cool coastal temperatures between 65-80 degrees. Humidity? Fleas love it. Every year, fleas pack their little flea suitcases, use their frequent flyer miles, and cruise on over to America’s Finest City for summer time fun.
Once a flea finds a host, it bites, causing its victim to itch and scratch like crazy. Flea bites look similar to other insect bites—you might see raised bumps with a small red center. Your dog can develop an allergic reaction to the flea’s saliva leading to total body irritation beyond where the bite occurred. Bites can also lead to excessive restlessness and inflammation. Some dogs may nibble and scratch at themselves leading to open sores and hair loss.
How do you know if your dog has fleas?
It’s often difficult to detect fleas because of their size. Try brushing your dog with a flea comb or giving them a bath. Drain the tub afterward and look for residual flea droppings. They look like specks of dirt at first glance, but you’ll notice a blood red tint once they’ve gotten wet.
Flea life cycles
Since fleas like warm-blooded animals and optimal weather, it’s important to know what you’re really up against when approaching San Diego flea season. Essentially, the adult female will live for several weeks, sucking the host’s blood and laying dozens of eggs (which can fall everywhere—your carpet, the dog’s bed, the backyard, etc.).
When the eggs hatch into larvae, they feed, grow, molt, and then form a cocoon at which point they wait to hatch into adults. Think of these insects like ninjas—protected by strong cocoons only to emerge when they sense a live, warm host nearby. Once detected, they act immediately and the cycle continues. Under perfect conditions, fleas can cycle through their life span in a matter of weeks.
The single most important thing you can do to avoid this headache is to take preventative measures before San Diego flea season hits. Prescription flea medication is highly effective and can prevent the female’s eggs from hatching thus stopping the life cycle in its tracks. Keep in mind dogs with flea bite hypersensitivity will not find relief with these products since the female flea will still be alive and ready to bite.
Whether you have your pup on a preventative in the spring or year-round depends on things like climate, local flea epidemics, existing medications, and—as always—your vet’s recommendation.
What follows is a list of flea control products and methods. SanDPups endorses natural products through and through, but some cases may call for an Rx. There are plenty on the market, so talk to your vet and see what they recommend for San Diego flea season. Do what works for you.
- Cooling sprays and essential oils. We like Vet’s Best.
- Flea shampoo, powder, and sprays
- Flea collars
There are tons of chemical-free products on the market, so be diligent in your research and read product reviews. Before you spend the money, consider making your own. Everyday Roots has a blog on DIY flea treatment options.
As for your house, well…Godspeed. You should vacuum your carpets regularly though flea eggs can be buried deep within carpet fibers, so it usually doesn’t do much. You can put a flea collar in the vacuum bag—just be sure to dispose of it immediately afterward. Steam cleaning is a better option. You might try bombing your carpets with a non-toxic Borax treatment. Borax for Fleas tells you all you need to know about the process. Wash and dry all linens and bedding in soapy water and high heat. Set homemade flea traps. Consider treating your yard with cedar chips and nematodes—small worms that feed on flea larvae. If all else fails, you can call an exterminator and bring out the big guns.
San Diego flea season is almost a misnomer. With our relatively steady temperatures, fleas can and do thrive here year-round. Your best defense is knowledge and prevention. Don’t wait until it’s too late and your dog or cat is suffering. Flea eradication is the exact opposite of fun and a major summer buzzkill. If you live in Encinitas or the surrounding San Diego area and haven’t talked to your vet about fleas, put it at the top of your to-do list.
Here’s hoping you have an itch-free summer!