Peak flea season is upon us.  That’s right, fall is the time of year that fleas are at their worst in this part of the country.  That’s a surprise to many folks who believe that the cooler temperatures of autumn mean they can let their guard down.  But fall conditions and temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit are prime for fleas.

They thrive in the environment and are in your lawn.  That’s also news to many who believe that fleas jump from one infested animal to another.  While it is certainly possible for a flea to jump off of one animal onto another, your pet is far more likely to pick up a little pest while out for a walk or just a potty break in the back yard.

The flea’s ability to jump is unparalleled in the animal kingdom and they can consume many times their own body weight in blood.

Flea dirt in a dog's coat.

Flea dirt in a dog’s coat.

How will you know if your dog has fleas?  Of course, crazy itching is a good sign.  But dogs also scratch for other reasons like allergies.  Maybe the most tell-tale sign is “flea dirt” in your dog’s coat.  Small specs of dirt are actually flea feces.  Flea dirt is generally most visible on your dog’s tummy where the fur is thinner and more skin is visible.  Fleas also tend to congregate around your dog’s head and tail.

Additionally, fleas are part of the tapeworm lifecycle.  Tapeworms can debilitate your dog and cause a variety of gastrointestinal issues.  And few things are more disgusting than a tapeworm problem.

The bottom line here is to stay vigilant.  The cost of flea protection is far less than dealing with the cleanup required when an infestation occurs.  We’re fortunate to have a selection of products available today that virtually eliminate fleas from our pets’ coats and thus our homes.  These products are far more effective than the old flea collars that were used just a couple of decades ago.  Should you get caught by surprise and find yourself living with a dog (or cat) who has fleas, remember Dawn dish soap (the blue kind) is good for an emergency flea bath.  Be sure to consult with your pet’s veterinarian to determine which flea product best suits your needs.