Driving down Fairhaven Parkway, it’s hard to miss the signs in front of Fairhaven Veterinary Hospital advertising flea prevention. In fact, these not-so-gentle reminders have been there for a while (a few months already?) and with good reason. Recent mild winters have resulted in a major flea problem in our neck-of-the-woods.

Why would a pet funeral director be concerned about fleas? First, I’m a pet parent. Second, I care about my clients. Third, I know first hand that there’s a local problem, because a number of deceased but still flea-infested pets have come through our doors.

Fleas must be taken seriously. They are a threat to your health, the health of your pets, and the health of those who live in proximity to you. If you live in an apartment, you run the risk of infecting apartments around you. If you take your dog out into public on a regular basis, you run the risk of infecting other dogs.

A few years ago, I did some research for a Placid Pet client with a very serious flea infestation, and here’s what I’ve learned from veterinarians, pest control experts, and personal experience:

First and foremost: Do the responsible thing and prevent fleas by using a widely tested and effective product like Comfortis, Frontline or Advantage. Mark your calendar and apply these products to your pets on a regular basis as directed (usually monthly). It’s a lot cheaper to buy a year’s worth of flea prevention product for your pet than it is to pay for a professional exterminator.

Another act of prevention: Buy up cheap flea collars when they go on sale and store them with your vacuum bags. Every time you replace a vacuum bag, put 1/4 to 1/2 of a flea collar in the bag before inserting the bag into your vacuum.

Where to look for fleas on a pet: Look at the base of your pet’s back, just above the tail. If your pet is sensitive is this spot, that’s a clue. Get a brush and brush the area by the tail. You may see fleas or flea dirt. If so, you’ve got a problem.

If you find fleas or flea dirt on one of your pets:

a) Check all of your other pets for fleas.

b) Go to your vet and ask for a Capstar pill (a single pill) for each pet on which you found fleas or flea dirt. Capstar will kill all adult fleas in just a few hours. It is a great way to get rid of existing fleas. Then follow-up with a flea prevention product like Comfortis, Frontline or Advantage to help prevent a reoccurrence.

c) Also from your vet, purchase a can of Mycodex Plus. Fairhaven Veterinary Hospital carries this product, as do other local veterinary clinics. Follow the directions on the can.

I love Mycodex because it works, it’s affordable (often less expensive than pet supply store brands), and it’s safe! It won’t harm your pet if they come into contact with it like other flea sprays.

Essentially you’ll want to use Mycodex in all areas of your home where you think there may be fleas (in your car, closets, pet beds, rugs, between mattresses, etc.). However, before using Mycodex…clean your home thoroughly!

What do I mean by cleaning your home thoroughly? Vacuum furniture, floors and carpeting. Use a hand tool/attachment to clean the space between the carpet and the walls. Dispose of the vacuum bag — put it in a plastic bag, seal the bag, and take the plastic bag to an outside garbage bin. Mop wood, tile or laminate flooring. Launder all bedding your animal has contact with. Launder curtains, or have them dry-cleaned. Open your windows — air out your house!

Fixing a serious infestation: If your problem is so bad that you need professional help and you live in Whatcom County, call Bio Bug. They’re a good, reliable, trusted local source.