Got an itch to scratch? It may be from a flea that you or your pet brought into the house. The pesky blood suckers seem to be on the march this season, but before you go on the offensive there is some advice to consider from a local vet.
Under a micro-scope a tiny flea looks like a sci-fi movie monster. Given the opportunity it would make a meal out of a puppy like 9-month-old Roxy. The energetic mini-Australian Shepherd was at Auditorium Shores Thursday. While she was focused on a toy, her owners, Reba Dorman and Ryan Hall say, they have spent a lot of time trying to prevent fleas from hitching a ride. Lately, they've noticed a few in her coat.
"Starting off we did, but recently she has gotten a lot better," said Hall.
Vet clinics are getting a lot of calls for help this flea season. A mild winter has contributed to the growing pesky population according to Dr. Adrienne Gwin, who works at Austin Vet Care.
Dr. Gwin urges pet owners to be careful when picking a flea control product.
"Make sure it is for the appropriate weight for your pet, don't be applying products for dogs to cats," said Dr. Gwin.
That's a problem because a chemical in many items designed for dogs can cause allergic reactions in cats.
"A dog product that's meant for a Yorkie, to your 15-pound cat and you can have side effects," said Dr. Gwin, who agrees the misuse could kill your cat.
Older products can also be hazardous to humans.
By the time you notice the fleas on your pet you may already have an infestation is in your yard and possibly even in your home. Like ticking time bombs, flea eggs can lie dormant for up to five months. To root them out, yards and homes can be sprayed with over-the-counter treatments. But Dr. Gwin warns doing it yourself can be risky.
"I think it's best to leave the heavy lifting to the qualified individuals and to make sure you are choosing the safest and most effective products for everything," said Dr. Gwin.
Over-the-counter sprays, to do some preventative work in and around your house, can cost about $20. Hiring a professional pest control company to treat a full blown infestation can cost about $200.
Excessive use of one product can also help create super fleas. The bloodsuckers can actually build up immunity just like a virus that can adapt to antibiotics.
"So you are just breeding for resistant fleas and parasites if you are not using things consistently and you're giving a dose of a flea medication when you see a flea on the pet," said Dr. Gwin.
Getting the upper hand will not require extreme measures, but it will make the treatment process a little more difficult.