Due to our unusual weather this fall, it seems that we are receiving more calls about animals with fleas than we have in the last few years. Fleas can be a real cause of frustration to pets and people as many animals are actually allergic to the saliva of the flea. This means that even just a small number of fleas can cause a pet to lick, chew and scratch their skin until it is raw.
Only the adult flea lives on your pet and 95% of the life stages are in the environment (indoors or out). Fleas develop from an egg to larvae to pupae to an unfed adult to a fed adult. The time from egg to adult is approximately 3 weeks. The average life span is 6-8 weeks. Fleas may lay dormant in the pupae stage for months, especially in carpet fibers. Eggs tend to hatch in warm humid environments. This life cycle is important to note, as it explains why the management of fleas must continue long after fleas are identified on your pet.
Luckily, the right medication makes it quite easy to prevent or treat a flea problem. Prevention is the easiest approach and many of the monthly medications that prevent heartworm also help protect your pet from fleas.
Once a problem has occurred, repeat monthly use of a prescription flea control product is best to eradicate fleas from the environment. Therefore, if you notice fleas on your pet in November, you should continue to treat your pet every month even through the winter in order to eradicate the infestation in your home. Topical monthly products tend to be safer and more efficacious than dips and shampoos. Keep in mind that you must treat all pets in a household even if only one is actively infected. We also recommend vacuuming your carpet and washing all bedding. This is a great start to remove any flea eggs and larvae, but make sure you dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag so they don’t hatch in the machine and escape!
There are currently many safe and effective flea products on the market. Those obtained through your veterinarian (topical and oral use) are backed by extensive research and safety studies, while many over-the-counter products are not. We would be happy to guide you regarding any product questions or concerns you may have regarding fleas.