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      Does your pet have the itch?

      Ask any pet owner to identify one of their worst fears, and it could be fleas.

      "A lot of people think that fleas come from a dirty house, or you know, something like that. But it has nothing to do with any of that. Fleas live on animals, they live in the sand, they live in the grass. You can bring them in on your feet, that sort of thing. So you can't just treat the dog," said Kimberly Rathbun, owner of Happy Dog Grooming Salon in Harvey.

      And that explains why they are very hard to get rid of.

      "The fleas you see on your pet are only five percent of the population. The rest is eggs, larvae, and a stage called a pupa, which it's practically impossible to kill the pupa stage. So 95 percent of the problem are things that you're not seeing in the house," said Dr. Therese Fahner, an Associate Veterinarian at Northern Veterinarian Associates in Ishpeming.

      Animals often get infested with fleas through contact with other animals or contact with fleas in the environment. Fleas easily jump from host to host, and begin to reproduce rapidly, feeding off the animal's blood and producing flea "dirt." Flea dirt looks like dark specks of pepper scattered on the skin surface, which is actually flea feces and is composed of digested blood.

      A flea's bite can cause itching for the host, but for a sensitive or flea-allergic animal, the itching can be quite severe, leading to hair loss, inflammation, or secondary skin infections.

      So what is the best way to exterminate these pests? Veterinarians strongly recommend Frontline--a topical treatment for pets.

      "We recommend three consistent months of use, because in that first month, you're going to kill the adult fleas on your pet. But then all those other stages that are hidden around the house in the bedding, things like that, are going to start hatching and reinfesting," Dr. Fahner said.

      In order to completely terminate all fleas, you will need to de-bug the house.

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