Flea infestations are the most common parasite problem of dogs and cats in our area. Unfortunately, here in North Carolina there really is no end to flea season. The fleas can survive our winter, so it is necessary to use flea preventative year round. It is estimated that American pet owners spend over 500 million dollars each year on flea products most of which do not work! During the past few years much research has centered on studying the life cycle of the species of fleas that attack dogs and cats in an effort to develop better flea control methods. There are over 2000 species of fleas, but only a few actually attack dogs and cats.
Here are some facts you should know:
Flea eggs are white and about the size of a grain of sand. The eggs are laid while the flea is on the pet and easily roll off the fur into the environment. Eggs usually hatch in 1-10 days, depending on the temperature and humidity. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae move deeper into the carpet to get away from light and searching for food. Temperatures below 65 degrees and relative humidity below 70% slow down growth of the flea. When the larva is mature, it produces a silk-like cocoon. Because the cocoon is sticky, it quickly becomes coated with debris from the environment that helps camouflage it.
This stage can last 9-174 days. Adult fleas emerge from the cocoon when stimulated by heat, vibrations, and exhaled carbon dioxide The entire life cycle can be completed in as little as 12-14 days, or as long as 200 days. Under average conditions, the entire life cycle takes 3-4 weeks.
Adult fleas are attracted to house pets by the warmth of your pet’s body, movement, and changes in light intensity, and exhaled carbon dioxide. Fleas have tremendously powerful back legs, which they use for jumping on your pet. It is estimated that if we had the same power in our legs as the flea has, we could jump over the Empire State Building. It is reported that fleas can jump as high as 13 feet.
It is now known that the adult flea species that attacks dogs and cats spends its ENTIRE adult life on your pet. Once the adult flea begins to feed on your pet, it must have almost constant excess to the blood of your pet for it to survive. Adult fleas cannot live off your pet more than 3-4 days without a blood meal.
Egg production begins within 48 hours of the first blood meal, reaches a peak of 40-50 eggs per day and can last well over 100 days. Female fleas can produce over 2000 eggs during their life. This is equivalent to producing their body weight in eggs every day of their life. While only a fraction of these eggs will eventually develop to adults in the natural environment, this high rate of reproduction ensures that there will ALWAYS be fleas!
New adult fleas must have a blood meal within 2-3 weeks after hatching. The higher the temperature and lower the humidity, the quicker the fleas will die.
It is common for people to be attacked by fleas after returning from vacation or being away from home for several days. This is often due to the increased temperature that occurs when the air conditioning is turned back providing a better optimum temperature and humidity (in our area) for fleas to mature.
Fleas consume 15 times their body weight with every blood meal. An infestation of 220 female fleas could consume 10% of a 1-pound kitten’s blood volume in one day. The majority of blood consumed is passed out as partially digested feces (“Flea Dirt”) that serve as essential food for flea larvae in the carpets and other areas.
FLEA CONTROL MUST INCLUDE TREATMENT OF THE YARD, HOUSE, & PET!
ESSENTIAL STEPS FOR FLEA CONTROL
SPOT TREAT THE YARD: Treat shady areas, damp areas, dog houses, and other areas where your pet spends the majority of its time. Use our recommended residual sprays for longer lasting effect. Spraying is most effective when the ground is damp. (Keep your pet out until completely DRY!) Repeat spraying every 3-4 weeks. (DO NOT uses these products on your pet!!) Dog houses should use cedar chips for bedding & tack a “No Pest Strip” underneath the floor to aid in repelling fleas.
VACUUM the house THOROUGHLY, at least once each week to remove eggs.
BATHE YOUR PET AS NEEDED using FRESH AND CLEAN SHAMPOO™, HYLITE, or ALLERGROOM : These products are safe and can be used as often as necessary to keep your pet clean without removing the topical flea treatment (i.e. Vectra 3D). Most over the counter shampoos will dry out the hair coat if used too frequently. A common complaint we hear form clients using over the counter products is “I bathed my pet but now he even scratches more!” That is usually due to using a shampoo that does not have the proper PH balance.
A TOPICAL TREATMENT OPTION:
The topical flea & tick product that we recommend is Vectra 3D for dogs and Vectra for cats. This product has a convenient applicator. Topical treatment may not be recommended if your dog enjoys swimming, or if you have small children, are a multi-pet household, are pregnant, or have an immunity disease.
The oral flea & tick recommendation is Bravecto. This is a tasty soft chew that provides 3 months of protection for your pet. It has also proven to be effective killing attached ticks within a short period. This product has been approved by the FDA for use in pregnant or lactating females. Bravecto is available only for dogs at this time.
An oral alternative that works in dogs and cats is Comfortis. However, this pill is only effective for one month.
CAPSTAR: An oral pill that kills any live fleas on the animal instantly. Only works on adult fleas, and only lasts for a few minutes. This product is used by groomers to immediately treat a flea infested pet. It is recommended for any animal that has fleas, but should be followed by an application of one of the topical treatments or one of the longer lasting oral products..
ALL PETS IN THE HOUSEHOLD MUST BE TREATED AT THE SAME TIME.
TO WIN YOUR WAR WITH FLEAS, IT IS IMPORTANT TO TREAT THE YARD, HOUSE, AND YOUR PET AT THE SAME TIME USING APPROPRIATE PRODUCTS FOR EACH.
DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY ON OVER-THE-COUNTER PRODUCTS AND “QUICK CURES.”