FLEAS: Prevention is Key

FLEAS, FLEAS, AND MORE FLEAS……that is a frequent complaint this time of year. It seems that every year a new group of unsuspecting victims fall prey to this dreaded infestation. I do mean infestation! The flea life cycle is a mystery to many people. When we explain the process to rid your home and pets of this parasite, people are shocked by the time and money required to treat these FLEAS!

The flea life cycle thrives in warm and humid weather. Many think late summer is when you need to think about flea treatment. That is not correct. Fleas hatch year round if conditions are ideal. Further South where there is not a winter season, they fight fleas year round. Therefore, all snowbirds must do year round flea and tick preventatives on their pets. If you board, groom, train, and or visit dog parks with your pets during the cold season of the year you should do year round flea and tick prevention. Fleas can live on animals even during the winter months and if your pet comes in contact with a flea infested animal and is not on prevention…. guess who’s going to have some new pesky creatures?

Fleas are very hardy and have 4 stages of their life cycle. Only the adult flea lives on the animal. They usually will not live on humans unless the infestation is so heavy they bite for a blood meal. Beauticians have reported finding fleas in human hair. Others have indicated they have been bitten when sitting in their chairs or walking through their homes.

dog-1559746_640The adult flea is brown and quite small. They jump and scurry through the hair. They do not fly. It is extremely difficult to see them in small numbers since they attempt to move away from your hands as you part the hair looking for them. Each adult flea can lay more than 2000 eggs in its lifetime. Each egg rolls off the pet and/or animal wherever the animal goes. If it is a small cat or dog and they go under the bed, you will have flea eggs under the bed. If they go behind the chair or under the table, you will have flea eggs in those areas as well.   If they sleep in your bed eggs will be in your sheets and/or on the comforters. The eggs hatch and a small larva emerges. This larva feeds on flea dirt and the crumbs in your carpets and cushions. After a few days it becomes a pupa and undergoes a transformation into the adult flea within the protective casing of the pupa.   Now this is where it gets extremely frustrating. NOTHING kills the pupa. This protective casing is resistant to most chemicals that we have to fog or bomb or spray our homes. Our topical flea products do nothing to this stage of the flea cycle.   When winter comes and we turn on our heat, this stage of the cycle goes dormant. It waits until the warm and humid weather returns before choosing to hatch and start the cycle over again. THEREFORE many people get a false sense of security thinking they have the problem under control but it is still there lurking in the home waiting for warmer weather.

The reason we see so many fleas this time of year is because fleas have been laying eggs in your environment since April. The numbers reach a peak based on how many eggs have been laid.   We get our hot humid weather making conditions ideal and our pets become infested by the large number of fleas emerging.

So now your are most likely disgusted and asking yourself HOW DO WE BATTLE THIS INFESTATION? Start flea prevention as soon as warm weather returns. Some years that is March. Also, if you have had a flea problem on your pets be sure to do year round prevention for the first year making certain when a pupa hatches, the adult flea feeds, and it dies before infesting your home again. Dogs and cats share fleas so indoor only cats are at risk especially if living in a home with dogs. Never use dog flea products on cats since toxic reactions can occur. If you have flea problems washing as many blankets, comforters, rugs, etc., can eliminate numbers of eggs, larva, and pupa in the home. Vacuuming can reduce numbers as well but make certain you empty your bag or canister since the fleas have been known to escape. Foggers and sprays can help reduce numbers too, but remember they cannot get under beds, behind couches, in closets, etc., where many pets leave eggs behind.

So the best method to battle flea infestations is to keep every pet on flea and tick prevention. There are multiple products with a large difference in price. Recently many generics have come available. I do not have the space to discuss the pros and cons of all the flea products on the market but I will share information about the newest products on the market. There are now oral flavored flea and tick preventatives. The two top contenders are Bravecto and Nexgard. Bravecto is a soft chewable treat that is good for 3 months. Nexgard is a chewable treat given monthly. Both have a good palatability rating and have been given to a large number of dogs in the last 2 years since they came available. If someone has fleas, I make a point to prepare them for 3 months of flea issues. Knowing the environment is infested it can take that long before no new fleas will emerge. One chewable Bravecto will cover those 3 months.

If you have been using one product and fleas are still present, talk to your veterinarian. A new type of prevention may be recommended. Resistance has been talked about in areas around the country and maybe it is time to try a different product on your pets. There are products out there that are very inexpensive that I would avoid. They never worked when they first came out and they still do not work today.

To wrap this FLEA BLOG up…..PREVENTION IS THE KEY! Protect your pets always and you will not be disappointed. Do not go the “cheap” route. Treat all pets including your indoor only cats. Have a fun fall, free of fleas!


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