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Get ready for nasty pet peeve -- flea season

| Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hot, muggy days on the heels of a mild winter and a wet spring is just the scenario to get blood-sucking parasites hopping.

Fleas are expected to hit the region in droves this summer -- setting up camp on the backs and bellies of hapless pooches and felines and sending pet owners racing to cure the itch, veterinarians say.

The irksome insects already have launched their annual feast in parts of Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida and Northern California.

For cuddly kittens and puppies, the flea season could mean more than a lot of scratching. Hungry fleas can cause potentially fatal anemia in young or weak animals, vets say.

"Young animals can't handle all that stress of being eaten on all the time," said Jane Gruber, head technician at Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.

Blame it all on the weather.

Fleas prosper in humid environments, Gruber said. The region has been hit with 21.85 inches of rain so far this year, compared to the normal precipitation level of 18.06 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Moon.

And after a drenching 2004 -- when hurricanes spawned record downpours -- it all adds up to the perfect breeding ground for those annoying little bugs, which can lay thousands of eggs in just a few days.

Pets aren't the only ones at risk. Flea outbreaks on cats and dogs and other animals can turn quickly into an infestation that gets people scratching, too.

"They'll see the fleas hopping while they're sitting and watching TV," Gruber said.

Readying for the tiny insects' arrival, The Pet Salon off Greentree Road in Scott this week is introducing a new product in its flea-treatment line, said owner Mike Lisk.

A gumball-sized Spot 3-in-1 Ultrasonic Pest Repeller, which sells for $15.99, hangs from a pet's collar and emits high-frequency sound waves to repel fleas, mosquitoes and ticks for up to three months.

Once-a-month topical treatments -- such as Advantage and Frontline, which require veterinary prescriptions -- work especially well and are convenient for busy people who don't want to wrestle with their dogs or cats while attempting shampoos, sprays or powders, said Gruber of Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.

Dog groomer Chelsie McLaughlin said she believes Frontline is the best product on the market, delivering visible results on her 2-year-old pooch, Snoopy. McLaughlin said the fleas try to attack but their stay is brief.

"I can see the fleas jumping on and off," she said.

Additional Information:

Fighting fleas

To keep the fleas away, try:

  • Extending spring cleaning into summer. Vacuum frequently and wash pets' bedding.

  • Don't let cats and dogs roam the neighborhood. Indoor pets, or those kept in the back yard, are less likely to pick up fleas from other pets or wildlife.

    Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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