So you’ve discovered that your pet has fleas or that you have an infestation in your house. Unpleasant news, but don’t panic just yet. Flea prevention and treatments have improved drastically in the past few decades and we have a lot of options in the arsenal that actually work.
First, let’s take a look at the life cycle of the flea, as every stage has it’s own challenges.
Stage 1: EGG
Percentage of flea population: 50%
After a female flea takes a blood meal, she lays eggs. One flea can lay thousands of eggs over her lifetime and since the eggs are ready to hatch in a couple of days to a couple of weeks, it’s easy to see why eggs make up such a large percentage of an flea population. Ideal conditions to hatch the flea eggs are warm and humid weather; eggs take longer to mature and hatch in cool, dry weather.
Stage 2: LARVAE
Percentage of flea population: 35%
Fleas emerge from the egg as larvae, which are blind when they emerge and hide from the light. They develop over the next few weeks and survive by eating “flea dirt,” which is actually predigested blood left by adult fleas. Larvae spin cocoons in 5-20 days, depending on conditions, which leads to the next stage.
Stage 3: PUPAE
Percentage of flea population: 10%
The pupae is the last developmental stage before the adult flea. The cocoon protects the flea until environmental conditions are appropriate for the adult to emerge, which may be several days, months or even years. The cocoon has a sticky outer covering that helps it remain deep inside carpeting and not be removed by casual vacuuming or sweeping. The outer covering also protects the flea from insecticides
Stage 4: ADULT FLEA
Percentage of flea population: 5%
Adult fleas don’t emerge until certain cues are present that indicate a nearby host. These cues include vibration, rising carbon dioxide levels and heat. An adult flea must take a blood meal before she is capable of laying eggs. Adult fleas can live on a host animal anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
The key to successful treatment of a flea infestation and prevention of a recurrence lies in attacking the problem at all stages of the life cycle.
- If your pet is heavily infested with fleas, use an appropriate shampoo to bathe him to remove adult fleas and stop the biting. BE SURE TO READ LABELS CAREFULLY! Not all products can be applied to both cats and dogs and some dog flea products can actually be toxic to cats.
- Vacuum thoroughly, paying special attention to areas where your pet spends a lot of time.
- Remove cushions from furniture and use the vacuum attachment to get into all the nooks and crannies.
- Vacuum along baseboards and any cracks between wood floor planks. Be sure to empty the vacuum receptacle or change the bag afterwards.
- Wash your pet’s bedding, if possible in hot, soapy water, as well as any sweaters or coats your pet may wear, and toys.
- Consider running a humidifier or turning the heat up to encourage hibernating pupae to emerge for removal.
- If you choose to use sprays or foggers for your home, use them cautiously and follow all directions. Do not use insecticide near or on eating surfaces or on furniture and bedding.
- Look for a product that contains an Insect Growth Regulator, which stops development of some phases of the flea life cycle.
- Treat your pet with a flea product that works best for you. BSAH carries both topically applied prevention and an oral pill, as well as Program Injectable, which is best for indoor cats.
- If you have a yard, don’t forget to treat your property with a flea product meant for outdoor use.
- In multi-pet households, you will see the best and fastest results when all pets are on flea prevention, even those that never go outside.
A flea infestation doesn’t go away overnight, as it is nearly impossible to remove or kill all stages of an existing and established flea population. It may take weeks or even months, depending on the severity of the problem.
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