As Caitlin G’Sell enjoyed an early spring day in Forest Park with her 13-year-old labrador Cosette, it was pretty obvious to her when the weather is this nice for this long at this time of year, flea season is going to be terrible.
“I think it snowed twice and hardly any freezing so a lot of the parasites and their eggs will survive this winter,” she said.
Many veterinarians are worried the worst flea season in recent memory is about to begin, or perhaps is already upon us.
“We probably saw more live flea cases throughout the winter than what we normally would, because it never got cold enough. They were still hatching out and able to get on the pets,” said Dr. Teresa Garden from Animal Health and Healing in Richmond Heights.
The problem with fleas is once you have one, you can soon have an infestation because a single female can lay up to 800 eggs.
“It is much easier to prevent the problem than to deal with it after it has started,” said Dr. Steven Schwartz, the director of veterinary services at the Humane Society of Missouri.
Like many veterinarians, Schwartz recommends flea and tick protection year round, and not just for outdoor pets.
“The classic we come across is that someone will say, well I have cats that stay indoors, my dog goes outside so since the cats are indoors there is really no reason to worry about flea problems with my cats. That is unfortunately not true. All of the animals become susceptible as soon as one of the animals goes outdoors,” Schwartz said.
One way to discover fleas early is to go over your dog with a flea comb, which can find fleas and flea dirt much better than you can just with your eyes. If black specks fall out of the hair you’ve combed, chances are you’ve found fleas. The best way to tell is to shake the hair pulled out by the comb over a white surface. Then add water to any black specks you find. If those specks melt and turn red, it is flea dirt, meaning your fleas have already made a home on your pet.
Along with fleas, ticks are expected to be bad as well, especially for pets that spend much time around water.