Q&A: Can wild animals, like a mongoose family, living in my garden infect my dogs with fleas?

Q. Can wild animals, like a mongoose family, living in my garden infect my dogs with fleas and what can I do to control fleas in the garden? 

A. There are many different species of fleas in South Africa. Many have preferred hosts, but will feed on other hosts. This is what happens when wild animals like mongooses, birds, rats or scrub hares come onto our properties carrying fleas. The flea eggs are not attached to the animal’s hair and fall off onto the ground where they will hatch into different stages and eventually into the adult flea, which will feed on our domestic animals. Flea infestation is an environmental problem as 90% of the flea population is found here and only 10% on the animal.

In working out a good flea control programme all areas of the flea population must be targeted. This must be done all through the year even if the infestation is worse in the hot summer months. One flea can lay 50 eggs a day, so these eggs can lie in the ground and build up through winter and hatch all at once in better weather in spring.

Step one: Treat the pet with an appropriate long-acting pesticide as regularly as the specific product specifies. Many spot-on preparations are on the market. Some kill only the adult fleas and some render the flea eggs infertile.

Step two: Treat the environment with products to kill the eggs, larval stages and adults in the environment. There are powders, sprays and foggers available for this. If you have a very big garden you can focus on areas your pet frequents, like walkways, sleeping areas and others. Keep in mind that new fleas will enter your yard constantly, and this will be an ongoing process. You will be able to keep the flea infestation low but not eradicate it totally.

Dr Ansie Davies

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