If the thought of having fleas makes you want to burn your house to the ground, you are not alone. However, before you reach for gasoline and a blow torch, check out these three tips to deal with fleas in a less drastic way.
#1: Understand the flea life cycle
Adult fleas feed on your pet’s blood, ingesting 15 times their body weight in blood a day, and lay eggs that drop into the environment. An adult flea can lay 40 to 50 eggs per day, for a total of around 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. These eggs develop into larvae in warm, humid, protected areas, such as deep in the carpet fibers, bedding, or shady spots of the lawn, and then spin a cocoon to become a pupa. An adult flea develops in the pupa in one to four weeks, and then waits for up to six months before emerging, when conditions are favorable. The pupa stage tends to be frustrating, because a pupa has a sticky coating that helps it adhere to surfaces, and also is difficult to kill with insecticides. An adult flea may emerge from the pupa several weeks after you apply a flea product to your pet and treat the environment, giving the false illusion that your flea control program is not working. The good news is that any adult fleas that hatch can be quickly killed once they jump on flea-preventive-treated pets.
#2: Find the right flea product for your pet
Flea products are available everywhere now—the grocery store, Amazon or other online retailers, the dollar store, and your veterinarian’s office—so, how do you choose the best product for your furry friend’s flea problem? First, our Colony Veterinary Hospital recommends purchasing flea preventives only from our office or online store directly. Many over-the-counter flea products, including versions of products normally available only through a veterinarian, are ineffective, and can be dangerous. By entrusting our team with your pet’s flea preventive needs, you not only know the product is safe and effective, but you also can take advantage of our extensive product knowledge to find the perfect fit for your pet. When recommending a product, we consider these factors:
- Delivery form — Would a chewable treat, topical liquid, or classy collar work best for your pet? A topical product may be less effective if your pet practically lives in the water, and giving an oral product to a persnickety pet and keeping your sanity and all your fingers intact may be nearly impossible, but luckily, there is a product that fits every pet’s unique needs.
- Duration — Do you want a product that lasts 24 hours, one month, three months, or eight months per dose?
- Speed of kill — All products start working quickly, but for a dog who is allergic to flea saliva, a product that starts working in 30 minutes instead of several hours means fewer bites and less itching.
- Need for other preventives — If your pet also needs tick, heartworm, or intestinal parasite preventives, combination products are a great way to protect them against these pesky parasites, without needing several separate products.
- Mode of action — Flea control drugs can be classified as adulticides, which kill adult fleas, or insect growth regulators (IGR), which stop flea eggs and larvae developing. Different situations call for different drug types, so our team can help you determine if your pet needs an IGR and adulticide combination to target multiple flea life stages for best control of an existing flea problem, or if only one of those drug types should be sufficient.
You must treat all indoor and outdoor pets in the home with an effective product to get fleas under control, or untreated animals will act as a flea reservoir. Ideally, flea preventives should be applied to all pets year-round. Administering the product correctly and using the proper dose for your pet’s size are important, as underdosing or applying a topical product to the hair rather than the skin may make flea control less effective.
#3: Treat your pet’s environment
At any given time, the flea life stages in the environment are composed of approximately 5% adult fleas, 10% pupae, 35% larvae, and 50% eggs. If you use a flea preventive that kills only the adult fleas on your pet, getting the flea population in your home under control will take a long time, because you will have to wait for all those life stages to develop into susceptible adults. Consider these tactics to control fleas in the environment:
- Vacuuming — The vacuum’s heat and vibrations will stimulate some pupae to hatch, and using the beater bar will help bring flea eggs, larvae, and newly hatched adults to the carpet surface, where they can be sucked up by the vacuum, or more easily reached by insecticide treatments. Ensure that you throw away the vacuum bag or thoroughly clean the bagless vacuum canister as soon as you finish vacuuming, so fleas can’t escape back into the environment.
- Using heat — Steam cleaning carpets or furniture and washing all bedding, blankets, and rugs in hot water weekly can also decrease the number of flea life stages in the environment.
- Considering environmental insecticides — A variety of indoor and outdoor foggers and premise sprays are available to further control flea life stages, but should be used only with professional guidance from our team, or a pest management service.
Our Colony Veterinary Hospital team is here to help you with all your flea control needs. Contact us for a comprehensive, blow-torch-free, flea control plan that will leave your house standing, and you and your pet smiling.