Fleas and Ticks
Flea & Tick Control in Oceanside, Carlsbad, & the rest of North San Diego County
(Illustration copyright Praise Hymn Inc. Used by permission)
Fleas are some of the most annoying and difficult pests that you can have in your home and the best way to control them is to prevent them from ever getting started. Fleas have a four stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. A flea would prefer to live his entire adult life on a hairy host, and most of them do exactly that! Female fleas can live up to two years with only occasional blood meals, but most of them only live for two or three months because they spend their vitality and energy laying hundreds of eggs. Fleas need a whole lot of blood in order to reproduce. The female will insert her feeding tube under the skin of a host, inject a little anti-coagulant to keep the blood flowing, and then feed until she is dislodged. She will pass blood through her body for as long as she can in order to provide a ready food source for larval fleas, because the preferred food source for fleas in the larval stage is adult flea droppings.
Have you ever bathed an animal and had the water turn pink (or red)? That is because the female fleas are providing food for their young and you are washing it off and diluting it. If you brush down a pet that has fleas you will doubtless see what looks like pepper flakes. Those are blood droppings from adult fleas. Guess what? Your carpet is full of that stuff and that is what the larval fleas are feeding on right now! If you see what looks like salt when you brush the pet, what you are seeing is flea eggs which produce the larvae that eat the blood droppings. When the larva is ready to go through its change of life it wraps itself in a silken blanket that is camouflaged with debris and attaches to the base of your carpet or a similar safe place. Fleas will remain in the pupa until the conditions are proper for feeding and reproduction and then they emerge for a blood meal to continue the circle of life.
Under normal circumstances more than ninety percent of the fleas will be on the host animal at any given time. However, when fleas are allowed to breed freely on the pet and in the house and yard their numbers can increase to infestational levels in just a few weeks! Most people do not realize they have a flea problem until it reaches the stage of major infestation with fleas seeking new hosts. When that happens it is often necessary to treat the animal, the house, and the yard in order to get a reasonable level of control.
As a general rule, the longer fleas are left untreated, the longer it takes to bring them under control, but flea control has changed dramatically in the last fifteen years. We now have safer alternatives to the old “spray ‘em and slay ‘em” routines that once dominated flea treatments. The best of the new tools are the treatments that are placed on the pets, specifically Revolution or Stronghold. If you keep current with those treatments during the warmer months and maintain a regular exterior service, there is very little chance that you will need more aggressive treatments inside your house. Contact us if you think that you need a whole house treatment, and we will advise you as needed. Pinpoint does not charge our regular customers for flea or tick control if they are using Revolution or Stronghold on the pets but again, if the pets are treated, all that is necessary is occasional treatments around the entries and the yard and patio. You can get a prescription from your Veterinarian or you might try a Canadian website www.WorldPetExpress.net or surf for another prescription free site. You will need to know your dog’s weight to order the materials.
You can help! The best thing that you can do for flea control after the application of an on-the-pet treatment is to go heavy with a good vacuum cleaner. Flea eggs have no defense against a vacuum and flea droppings are very light and easy to lift out of carpets and upholstered furniture also. Those droppings are dried blood mixed with a powerful anticoagulant so be aware that if flea droppings get damp or wet they will leave a red or pink stain on almost any surface, especially white carpets and upholstery. I have seen white rattan furniture, pet bedding, throw rugs, and many other items that were blood stained by flea droppings.
Brown Dog Ticks are by far the most common tick species that we see here in North County. They are found on pets, on people, and in homes and yards throughout the county. Ticks have a three stage metamorphosis, that is to say they go from egg to nymph to reproductive adult. They feed on blood in the nymph and adult stages and the females can grow to the size of a grape as they engorge themselves prior to laying eggs. In order to feed on your pet (or on you) the tick will latch on very firmly and will insert its head into the skin and, much like a flea, it will inject a powerful anticoagulant under the skin to break the blood down and to destroy the platelets that cause blood to coagulate. This material is very irritating to animal tissue and can cause many different types of reactions. Some types of ticks can also carry diseases and can pass them from animal to animal when they feed.
An adult female tick will remain on a host until she is fully engorged with blood!
Picture courtesy of County of San Diego Vector Control Program
Tick control is also best done before they appear on your pet. Once again, your best tick control tool is Revolution or Stronghold applied monthly in the summertime to kill ticks on your pet before they get a chance to feed (or shortly thereafter). If your home gets infested with ticks, they can be very difficult to control, often needing two or more treatments.
Outdoor treatments for tick control must be directed at the plants that your animals walk near in your yard. You see, after a nymph tick has fed, it drops off of the animal and hides away while it uses blood nutrients to achieve the next instar of development and to molt away its old suit. As soon as the new set of duds hardens sufficiently, the tick will crawl out to the end of a plant that is animal high and will hitchhike on to the first ride it can get.