Fleas have four life cycles: eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. Fleas reproduce rapidly in very short amounts of time. Adults will mate within 24 hours after emerging from their pupae state. One adult female lays up to 50 eggs a day. Over the course of her lifetime, she will lay 2,000 eggs. Eggs will hatch within 2 weeks. They can stay in larvae and pupae stage for several months waiting until conditions to continue the cycle to adults to emerge. Weird analogy coming up! Picture the food pyramid and replace the foods with fleas! The adults are at the top. Pupae and larva are in the middle sections and the large base at the bottom is filled with eggs! With a flea infestation, the adult fleas you see on your pet or in your home, is only about 20% of the problem!
Just because you don’t see any adult fleas doesn’t mean they are not there. Especially if you’re looking on your cat – since they are fastidious groomers – they probably lick away any evidence of fleas before you see them. Some signs of fleas include pepper-like specks in your pet’s coat or in areas where they lay. This is flea feces. Flea eggs look like light-colored specks on your pet’s coat or in areas where they lay. Your pet is scratching and/or biting at their legs or their rump; patches of hair loss near their tail or around their neck; tiny dark brown insects scurrying around on your pet. You will need to push the fur in the opposite direction for detection of fleas and flea dirt. They will be found on the skin. Fleas don’t like light and will run when you flip that fur back! Fleas feed by biting your pet and “drinking” your pet’s blood. Their feces is essentially dried blood. If you have a damp paper towel, you can “roll” the flea dirt over the paper towel and a rusty brown trail will be left behind. This trick can help you determine flea dirt from regular dirt!
Adult fleas feed every 30 minutes which is why your pet is so miserable with fleas. Over 80% of pets are allergic to flea saliva. This condition is called flea allergy dermatitis (F.A.D.). A pet with F.A.D., not kept on a flea preventative will require antibiotics and possibly a corticosteroid to calm down the allergic reaction and treat the secondary infection that occurs. A heavy case of fleas on a very small or young pet can cause anemia. Fleas can carry blood diseases as well as tapeworm eggs.
MVVS recommends flea prevention for every pet regardless of their lifestyle. Doggy daycare, dog parks, boarding facilities, back yards, and the woods are places that your pet can pick up fleas. But what if your pet is an indoor only pet? Guess what? Your pet still needs to be on a preventative. There is no such thing as a zero risk. Your yard is constantly being visited by wildlife and probably other neighborhood pets. These animals will spread fleas and their eggs in your yard. Any person who is in your yard can carry the fleas and eggs into your home and infest your indoor-only pet. Fleas don’t even have to be in your yard to come into your home. If someone was in an area where there is a flea infestation and then they come into your home, your pet will be exposed to fleas. Because fleas can live year-round indoors and mild weather can extend the flea season, keeping your pet on a preventative year-round is highly recommended. Remember, it is easier to prevent a flea infestation than to eliminate one. If you’re concerned about the cost of yearly flea prevention, think of it like this: Do you change the oil in your car to keep it running smoothly? Providing preventative health measures for your pet helps cut down on expensive “clean ups”. Once fleas are in your home and on your pet, the cost quickly adds up:
All animals in your home will need to be treated for at least 3 consecutive months – this includes dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits and guinea pigs. Be sure the products you have are approved for the type of animal you are treating! Severe reactions including death can happen if the wrong product is used!
All areas of the home need properly cleaned. All pet beds and human bedding (blankest, sheets, etc.) will need to be washed on a warm water cycle. If able, remove couch cushion covers and run through a warm water wash cycle. You will need to vacuum several times a week to pick up flea eggs. Empty the canister or change the bag after every vacuum session. Close those bags tightly and get them out of the house! You don’t want all your hard work to “crawl” back out of the bag into the house! Concentrate on the areas of your home where fleas love to leave their eggs, larvae hatch and pupae wait for the right moment to hatch: under furniture, buried deep in carpets, in pet beds, around stairs (indoors and outdoors), shady areas of your porch and deck. Flea foggers can be used but keep in mind that they create a mushroom cloud and will not reach under beds, cupboards, edges of the room. No pets or humans can be in the home for several hours during or after the foggers are used – so you will need to find a safe place to keep your family and pets until it is safe to go back inside the home. All surfaces should be wiped down after the fogger is used. Whew, after all that, prevention seems so much easier!
MVVS offers multiple flea preventatives for dogs and cats because one product doesn’t fit every situation. Most products need to be applied or given monthly. We offer a topical that must be applied behind the head on the skin. We also carry a product that is flavored and is given like a treat. We carry collars that last 8 months. All our products protect your pet for more than just fleas. Some include tick preventative, and some include mite and/or intestinal parasite prevention. We have done research on the products we carry, and we trust the manufacturers will stand behind their product. If the product doesn’t work like they say it will, most will refund your money and, in some situations, will pay to have a professional company come in and take care of the flea problem in your home. Give us a call to discuss the best product to keep your household flea free!