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Oklahoma State University
Center for Veterinary Health Sciences

Healthy Animals - Healthy People

Fleas: What You Need to Know

Friday, September 1 2017

cat scratching

Fleas are a year-round problem for both pets and their owners. Even indoor pets can be affected if the yard and home are contaminated.

Fleas are not only irritating to pets but they can cause dermatitis and spread intestinal tapeworms.

Several diseases can be transmitted by fleas. Humans may be bitten if there is a heavy infestation of the home and surrounding areas. An allergic response such a rash may occur. The rash can be mild to severe depending on the number of fleas and individual sensitivity.

For every six fleas you see, there are 300 in the environment or on your pet!

What’s a pet owner to do?

To control flea infestation, fleas must be removed from the pet, the home and the yard.

Fleas most likely develop in your pet’s bedding, in furniture cushions and thick carpeting.

Outdoor ‘hot spots’ for fleas include dog houses, flower beds, gardens and areas under decks or porches. Shady, moist areas can easily be flea infested and a source for reinfection.

The most important principle in a total flea control program is to simultaneously treat the pet’s environment (indoors and outdoors), the pet, and all other pets (dogs, cats or ferrets).

Your veterinarian can recommend flea control products. He/she may also recommend the use of premise treatments for indoor and outdoor environments simultaneously. 

Keep free roaming animals out the environment and repeat treatments to successfully remove fleas in the environment.

Consult your veterinarian for the best approach. Each flea infestation is unique; therefore, no one program is effective for every flea problem.

For additional information, read Flea Control and Top 10 Flea Myths.

by Elisabeth J. Giedt, DVM

Veterinary Viewpoints is provided by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Hospital.  Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association, the hospital is open to the public providing routine and specialized care for all species and 24-hour emergency care, 365 days a year.