Flea-ting Winter

Winter in Indiana and much of the eastern US was mild and fleeting. The lack of cold temperatures and warm late winter weather is good for heating bills. However, the warm weather is also good for fleas. Cold weather is an important mortality factor for cat fleas. In areas with sub-freezing temperatures, flea populations decline during the cold Winter and build up slowly as Spring turns into Summer. When winter comes again, relief from fleas follows.

Most veterinarians in the Northern US have few complaints about fleas early in the Spring. This year, however, is different. Veterinarians from across the US including Abiline, Missouri and Pennsylvania are already reporting numerous cases of flea infestations.

Severe infestations of fleas can lead to flea dermatitis, an allergic reaction of the pet to the flea saliva. Pets can suffer hair loss and oozing sores that make them difficult to pet. Pet owners are desperate for affordable solutions. Over-the-counter products vary widely in effectiveness. Flea treatments from Veterinarians are often very expensive. Many people will try to cut corners and use cheap but ineffective over-the-counter remedies. When those don’t work they end up with the more expensive veterinary treatment. The pet suffers from fleas for a longer time and the cost of the ineffective over-the-counter products are added to the total. Another problem occurs when pet owners use less expensive products formulated for dogs on their cat. Dogs are far more tolerant of insecticides than cats. A dose that is correct for a dog may sicken or even kill a cat.

The effectiveness of flea products can rapidly change due to insecticide resistance. Sustained exposure to a single type of insecticide can kill all the fleas that are susceptible to the insecticide, but leave alive those fleas that have pesticide resistance genes. When pesticide resistant fleas breed with each other, their offspring inherit the resistance genes. The following generations are also resistant to the pesticide and the product will no longer work. If your pet has flea problems, it is useful to consult with an expert who knows which products are effective in your area.

Cat Suffering From Flea Dermititis

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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