Get a head start on flea season by preparing your pet, yard and home

Spring — it’s a time for warmer weather and rainy days. That also means it’s time for a possible onslaught of fleas. These itchy parasites are not only a painful annoyance, they’re also potential carriers of bacterial and viral diseases. It’s important to be proactive — once you see actual adult fleas on your pet or in your home, they’ve actually been lurking as flea eggs, larvae or pupae for a long time. It’s much easier to be diligent about keeping these unwanted guests away than it is to get rid of them once they’ve arrived.

One of the simplest tactics is to allow pets to stay indoors as much as possible to avoid contact with these pests in the first place. Since that’s not always practical, it’s a good idea to take an integrated, three-pronged approach by preparing your pet, your yard and your home.

First, be sure your pet is primed for flea avoidance. There are many effective products on the market to keep fleas from being attracted to your pet and making a home in their fur: oral medications that use insect-growth regulators to prevent fleas from maturing and reproducing; once-a-month spot treatments that break the flea life cycle and prevent eggs from hatching; and flea and tick collars, sprays, powders, shampoos and dips. Consult with your veterinarian to see which products may be most appropriate for your particular pet and household, and discuss any cautions about combining multiple methods.

Next, help your yard become a no-flea zone. Keep your grass mowed and avoid overgrowth where fleas love to hide. Removing tall weeds and vegetation also prevents creating hiding places for stray animals, rodents or wildlife that might bring fleas with them. Avoid clutter where fleas or flea-carrying animals can collect, including piles of mulch and under decks. Consider a preventive treatment in granules or spray form for extra protection.

Finally, set up your home to make it as inhospitable to fleas as possible by cleaning to get rid of any eggs or larvae that get carried in from outside. Regularly vacuum carpets, floors, baseboards and under furniture and wash your pet’s bedding, crate and toys in hot, soapy water. This removes microscopic debris where eggs and larvae can live invisibly before hatching into adult fleas.

Because fleas can jump from yard to pet to home, laying eggs over and over again, it’s crucial to keep up with flea-prevention measures even before peak flea season. Staying vigilant all year long, even when you think fleas are dormant, can save you and your pet a nasty, itchy surprise in the spring.