It seems like everyone is worried about fleas in the spring and summer. While this is certainly a problem time of year, experience has proven that the fall is actually one of the worst times for fleas. A flea can jump up to 8” high and 12” laterally. All it takes is your beloved Fi Fi to walk by and they have a mobile home. Within 15 minutes of that initial free ride, the fleas begin feeding.
Feed and Breed
They feed on the blood of your pet about once every 30 minutes. Within 24 hours on your pet, they begin to breed. Between feeding and breeding, those fleas live quite the high life. Each female flea will lay 28-50 eggs per day — over 2,000 in her life time! Those eggs are sticky and after a short time, they dry and fall off your pet into the environment and can hatch within 2-5 days.
By environment, I mean your carpet, furniture, bed, lap, yard… Those eggs hatch into larva. A flea larva is basically a maggot. And, to make matters worse, their food source is the digested blood from the adult flea — flea poop!
Larva do not like light. In fact, they will burrow down in the carpet and material fibers and remain quite comfortable for the next 7-14 days while they prepare for the next stage of their life, the Pupa stage. This stage can last for up to a year, nice and cozy in your home. Presently, there is no effective means of killing this stage of a flea’s lifecycle. Protected by the cocoon the larva spins, it sits and waits for the right circumstances. Stimulation causes them to hatch. Vibration (vacuuming, walking/running or any movement), light, carbon dioxide and ideal temperatures all lead to the next generation of fleas to emerge. High temperatures (temperatures above 85 degrees) will keep the pupae in a dormant state. But when the temperatures drop and remain below 85 degrees, such as we see in the early fall, we begin to see numbers, very large numbers of fleas hatching at once. So all those fleas that fed, bred, and laid eggs all summer long, have left the next generation ready for their fall emergence. They emerge hungry, and the cycle begins again.
That is why we see so many desperate and frustrated people in the fall claiming massive numbers of fleas on their pets. Pets that have been treated with good, reputable flea products. So what can you do to prevent this? Can your pet survive a fall without scratching itself to death? The answer is yes.
Effectively Fight Fleas
To effectively fight fleas, you need an all around assault plan. Simply putting a topical flea treatment on your pet isn’t enough. Only 5% of fleas you see are in the adult stages. The rest are in the stages you don’t see, the egg, larva and pupa stage. To only attack the adult stage will leave you with a future population of fleas that will soon infest your pet and keep your battle an on-going one. Products containing an IGR, or insect growth regulator are essential in fighting fleas. These products not only kill the adults, they also kill the eggs and larva stages. Products that you use for your pet must contain an IGR. One specialized IGR, Lufenuron, found in Program and Sentinel from Novartis Animal Health, prevents the flea from hatching from the egg stage altogether. Sort of a birth control for fleas. It’s fighting the fleas without the toxic residues of other topical products. The Lufenuron is passed in the stools of the adult flea and as mentioned above, the flea maggot or larva feeds on the flea droppings, preventing them from developing into the next stage, the pupa stage.
Remember the Inside Environment
Now for the environment. Remember I said that eggs laid on the pet fall off in the pet’s environment? Consider if you will, your pet as a salt and pepper shaker. Every where your pet goes, eggs are being shaken off. Love to sit with your pet on your lap? Or sleep in your bed? Well, the fleas on your pet have been busy. Busy breeding and laying eggs and feeding on your pet. And you guessed it; you are sleeping and sitting with, and probably on, all those eggs as a result.
So what should you use in your home? You need to use a product with that wonderful IGR in it. Vacuuming first floors and furniture will suck up some of the unwanted pests. Don’t forget to discard the vacuum bag after you do this. Remember vibration awakens the flea from its cocoon stage. Now use your indoor treatment according to label instructions. The IGR in the spray will affect any leftover eggs, larva and lay down a residue to kill any adults that emerge from the vibration process. Launder all bedding as well.
Remember the Outdoor Environment
Where do you think your pet gets it’s fleas from? Wildlife and other untreated domestic animals. Remember everywhere your pet goes, it’s like a salt and pepper shaker shaking off flea eggs. Under decks, in bushes, under the shade of your trees are favorite spots for wildlife. They don’t prefer the middle of your yard in the direct sun and neither do fleas. Focus your outdoor treatment in these areas as this is most likely where you will have your flea population lurking in its various life stages. Use a product with an IGR here too. There are a lot of excellent products out there. And some not so excellent products.
Knowing how to fight your flea problem (or prevent one) is the key to your success. Your veterinarian is the best place to start. They have researched the products and medications they carry and have the training to back up this knowledge. Fleas are not just a parasite problem, they are a medical problem. Who better than your veterinarian should instruct you on the best medication and plan for fighting fleas? They also have trained staff that can answer any questions you may have as well so don’t hesitate to contact them. You CAN beat fleas. Knowledge is your key.