NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

November 11, 2011

Paw Prints: Fleas can live indoors all winter

Our beautiful Indian summer ended with a blast last week. Jack Frost accepted the invitation for nightly visits. He hides during the day, as our yards get bathed in sun.

These weather changes have impacts on our pets, too. The bugs that cause disease in dogs and cats are finely tuned to New England seasons.

Fleas had a smorgasbord this year. Our summer was long, warm, humid and drought-free. This created the perfect storm for fleas to thrive. If your cat and dog were not on schedule with quality flea control, chances are that they caught fleas.

Even indoor pets became infested. Simply visiting a friend whose pet had fleas could put your home at risk. The immature fleas — eggs, larvae or pupae — can stick to your clothes and be transferred back to your house. The rest is history.

Fleas thrive in heat and humidity. Their life cycle is slower now that the nights are cold and the air is drier. However, fleas don't die off in the cold. If they did, they wouldn't surge again next summer. Mother Nature makes sure fleas can survive the winter.

Your home makes it easy for this to happen. It's never winter inside your house. Warm temperatures persist all year, but the air is drier than during summer. This decreased humidity slows the flea life cycle but does not end it. The time period to change from egg to larva to pupa to adult flea may take longer, but it still happens.

Since this summer was the worst flea season in years, be aware that many homes are still infested with various stages of flea life. The homeowner may not know what is brewing in their carpets and beds. When you visit this friend, you can continue to bring fleas home throughout the winter. Your holiday house guests can introduce them as hidden hitchhikers, too.

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