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Wetter year in Oklahoma has contributed to an increase in fleas

Generally the peak of flea activity is late summer and early fall. That's because there is active flea reproduction through the summer months. But this time, there was apparently reproduction through the winter months.
by Bryan Painter Published: May 15, 2012

A mild winter and a wet spring have allowed fleas to proliferate, leaving dogs scratching and veterinarians busy.

Staff members at the Pet Medical Center of Edmond have seen an upswing in pets with infestations.

“Last year the drought was the major player in why we weren't seeing big flea populations,” said Richard Hufnagel, one of the veterinarians. “They like moisture.”

This year, Oklahoma had its warmest January through April on record with a statewide average temperature of 52.3 degrees, which was 5.5 degrees above normal. The state had 12.44 inches of precipitation through April, which ranked as the 14th wettest January through April, on record. That was 2.76 inches above normal.

“This year is more conducive to those eggs hatching out because of the relatively wet year we're having,” Hufnagel said.

Fleas feed on the blood of dogs and cats.

An earlier start

Susan Little, a regents professor at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University, said not only are there more fleas this year, but they came earlier.

Generally the peak of flea activity is late summer, early fall. That's because there is active flea reproduction through the summer months.

But there was apparently reproduction through the winter months in 2011-2012. She believes that because veterinarians have told her there has been really high activity this year in the spring, which is unusual.

Little said that some dog and cat owners do not use flea control in the winter.

“And so I think what may have happened is they slacked off flea control and the fleas did just fine because it was not as dry and not as cold as it normally is,” she said.

Little serves on the executive board of the Companion Animal Parasite Council and they recommend year-round use of flea control on dogs and cats. She said veterinarians have told her they have also seen more ticks this year.

“So we recommend not stopping in the winter, for just this reason,” she said.

More than one issue

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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