Fleas are tiny insects that feed on blood from animals. Not only are fleas a nuisance, but they can also cause tremendous anxiety, disease, and allergies.
- Fleas thrive in damp, dark places such as shaded outdoor areas and can live inside a home year round due to optimal temperature and humidity conditions.
- Female fleas lay up to 50 eggs a day and up to 2,000 fleas in their lifetime.
- Immature flea stages remain dormant in carpeting, bedding, baseboards and other areas until conditions are appropriate for development.
- Flea preventions are not magic, when a flea jumps on your pet it will not die instantly. Flea preventions will start killing fleas in as little as 30 minutes but it may take several hours for all the fleas on the pet to die. You may still see fleas for days or weeks due to new fleas jumping onto your pet from your environment.
Flea Life Cycle
Adult Fleas – represent only 5% of an entire flea population and live their entire life on the pet. Adult fleas lay eggs on the pet.
Flea Eggs – represent 50% of a flea population and look like tiny grains of salt. Eggs are laid on the pet and fall off and scatter around the home and in the yard. Eggs hatch out into larvae.
Flea Larvae – represent 35% of a flea population. Larvae are as thick as a thread and 1/8” long. They burrow deep into carpets, upholstery, pet bedding and between baseboards.
Flea Pupae – represent 10% of a flea population. Larvae build a thick cocoon around themselves which provides ideal protection against insecticides, making the pupae inside nearly impossible to destroy.
Treatment and Control of Fleas
All pets in the home should be treated for fleas once monthly even if you only see fleas on one pet. It’s easy for your pet to get re-infested without ongoing flea control. Fleas can hitch a ride on your shoes or pants legs and enter your home. Outdoor wildlife continually deposit flea eggs in outdoor environments which can start the problem all over again.
Vacuuming and area treatment for inside the home are a good way to cut down on a population that is already established. Vacuuming will suck up various stages of the flea and the vibrations from vacuuming will stimulate the flea to hatch out of the pupae stage which nothing can penetrate. You will want to remove any debris from vacuuming the home as fleas can escape from the bag or canister and find their way back into the environment. After vacuuming a good area treatment such as Knockout can be used. Be sure to get spray around baseboards and under furniture as the larval stage can migrate and will not stay in the center of the room. Flea bombs are not recommended because they will not reach areas where migrated larvae will be.
Top 10 Flea Myths
Reality: You’ve heard the expression “breeding like rabbits?” Well, rabbits have nothing on fleas – a few fleas can turn into a massive infestation in a hurry. And if your pet is also allergic, even one or two bites can make him very uncomfortable. Your pet deserves to be completely free of fleas.
Reality: In many warm, humid areas, fleas thrive year round. Even in more seasonal climates, a warm spring or fall can extend the flea season to nine or 10 months of the year. Plus, fleas can survive on your pet and inside anywhere! Year-round flea control is best for your pet.
Reality: You may be in flea denial. Just because you don’t see fleas doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Your veterinarian can use a special comb to detect fleas and their waste, so ask her to do this if she hasn’t already. Even if your pet’s clean, they can pick up fleas at any time, so it’s a good idea to protect them.
Reality: Over-the-counter flea control products are not as potent and therefore not as effective as the prescription products you can get from your veterinarian. Some of these products are even toxic, especially if administered incorrectly. Your pet’s doctor can prescribe the best product for your pet and his lifestyle (Does he swim? Hunt rodents?), and show you exactly how to apply it.
Reality: One of the biggest mistakes pet owners make is to stop giving a flea product after the fleas go away – it’s one of the easiest ways to wind up with a re-infestation, and often it’s the result of simple human nature. By giving your pet year-round treatment, you can establish a natural pattern. This way, you’re much less likely to skip a dose here or a dose there, and therefore, much less likely to wind up battling a nasty re-infestation.
Reality: All pets in your household need to be treated – especially the cats (fleas’ favorite host), and even the guinea pig. Some pets are more sensitive to fleas than others, so if you treat only the pet that’s scratching, she’s likely to be re-infested by other pets that also have fleas but aren’t giving you any of those itchy signals.
Reality: Compared to the stress and cost of treating flea-related illnesses – and possibly paying someone to decontaminate your home – monthly control is a low-cost alternative. If you can’t afford a year’s worth at a time, ask your veterinarian about setting up a realistic program, such as having a three-month supply.
Reality: Your yard is constantly being visited by wildlife as well as other neighborhood pets (cats are notorious roamers). These animals can spread fleas and flea eggs, which can infest your pet whenever he goes outside.
Reality: Unlike “natural” products, prescription flea control agents have been extensively tested and approved by the FDA. Your veterinarian and the members of his hospital team use these products on their own pets, and they can answer any questions you have about safety.
Reality: Flea products are often combined with agents that control other parasites as well, helping protect your pets from additional diseases – some of which can even be transmitted to you. So keeping pets on flea control is not only best for your pet, it’s actually best for the whole family.