Fleeing Fleas? There's No Choice but to Fight

Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is immediate past president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q: Help! We live in a two-bedroom apartment with three cats and have become overrun with fleas during the past two weeks. We have a small patio where our cats go out to sun themselves and we occasionally get visiting cats from the neighborhood, so I'm sure that this is a source for part of our flea problem. The apartment is carpeted and must be a good home for the new flea population that has recently moved in. We use a spray on the cats and they have flea collars. I'm reluctant to use flea bombs because of the cats. Do you have any other suggestions for us? Will using a carpet cleaner get rid of the fleas?

M. Mohen, Huntington Beach

A: This is the worst time of the year for flea problems and the most difficult time to rid the house and yard of fleas. Unfortunately for us, Southern California is an ideal location for these parasites, and they appear to be firmly entrenched. To control a flea infestation, you must control the environment where the fleas live, which is in the carpeting and on the patio, as well as remove the fleas from your cats.

The patio may be treated with a spray insecticide. Be sure to cover all the borders and fence lines. The cement patio itself will need to be treated, as well, because the eggs and larvae can live in the cracks. Your patio area may be too small for an exterminator to come out and treat, but it wouldn't hurt to check. The apartment will also need to be treated very aggressively. Whether you decide to use a contract company to come out and treat the insides or do it yourself with flea "bombs" or sprays, you will need to remove the cats from the area for a period of time. It would be ideal to have the cats boarded for the day, getting a bath and dip while they are away, so that they come home free of fleas and their eggs.

After you have the apartment treated, you should thoroughly vacuum the carpets and floors, dumping the vacuum bag into the trash outside and replacing it with a new bag. Having the carpets cleaned may be an excellent way of removing any residual fleas and their immature forms before allowing your pets to return. Some products may also contain an insecticide that will help keep the populations under control. Just be sure that such products will not be toxic for your cats. The discouraging part is that this process may need to be repeated in three to four weeks to keep the fleas under control. Weekly spraying of the patio and the carpets may keep the population down to acceptably low levels. It is definitely a tough job and can be frustrating, but if maintained, you and your cats will be much happier.

Q: I have heard that I should feed my 4-month-old shorthair pointer a puppy food until he is a year old. Is that really necessary? He likes the regular food that I feed to my other dogs, and they are always getting into his. Can I feed him regular food now?

J. Benson, La Habra

A: Puppy foods are specially formulated to meet the needs of young growing dogs until they reach growth maturity. This will vary with different breeds, but larger breeds tend to mature at a much later age than smaller breeds. I would recommend that you continue to feed your pointer a good-quality puppy food until he is at least 9 to 12 months of age. Even though his height may stay the same, he is still developing and maturing for several months after his physical growth stops.

Got a question about your pet? Write to: Dr. Glenn Ericson, Ask the Vet, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.

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