We have had an influx of these pesky little parasites in the past few weeks. As the temperatures get colder, fleas like to jump from the environment back onto our pets and wreck havoc on their skin and our homes.
So where do our pets even get fleas? Most commonly, the fleas develop in various places outside and then hitch a ride on our dogs, cats, or even our shoes. To fully comprehend how our pets actually pick up these pests, we must first get a better understanding of the flea life cycle. Let’s start with the stage we actually see: the adults. Adult fleas can live happily on our dogs and cats for up to two to three months. A female adult flea must take a blood meal to reproduce. After this blood meal, the females will begin to produce eggs within 24 hrs. Each adult flea can produce up to 40-50 eggs per day. These eggs are laid onto our pets or onto wild animals. The eggs are not sticky and thus roll off the animal and into the environment. In the case of our pets, the eggs will likely roll onto his or her bedding. In the case of wild animals, the eggs typically roll off in dens or shaded hiding areas in the yard. The eggs will develop into larvae (small maggot like worms). The larvae will only develop in a favorable environment. It cannot be too hot, too cold, or too sunny. Mostly the larvae like quiet places like between floor boards, in carpeting, or in the shady areas in the yard. The larvae then become pupae. The pupae stage is very hardy. In an ideal environment, the pupa can become adults in as little as 8-13 days. However, the pupae can stay within their cocoons if the environment is not right for up to almost a year. It is because of the pupal stage that fleas are so difficult to eradicate.
Besides causing itch inducing bites leading to self- trauma by our pets, these parasites can also transmit diseases like tapeworms, cat-scratch fever (Bartonella sp.), Bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis), and Mycoplasma(a bacteria that causes anemia in cats), just to name a few.
So how do we get rid of these pests? The doctors at Mobile Veterinary Clinic take three prong approach to flea eradication.
- Kill the adult fleas. Upon diagnosing your pet with fleas, the doctors will recommend giving your pet a pill called Capstar. It is an adulticide product that begins working with 30 minutes and will kill all adult fleas within 24 hours. This ensures that your pet is not bringing adult fleas back into the home.
- Prevent re-infestation. We accomplish this through the use of preventative products. There are many products available in many different forms. When coming in for an appointment, you can discuss which product is right for yours and your pets lifestyle.
- Decontaminate the environment. This involves extreme cleaning of all surfaces in which the pet has contact. The doctors at Mobile Veterinary Clinic recommend beginning with a good vacuuming of the whole home and laundering of all linens the pet has contact with in very hot water. These two steps will get rid of the eggs and larvae. It is important to throw away the vacuum bag after vacuuming for flea cleaning, as pupae can change to adults within the vacuum bag. Sometimes it is best to hire an exterminator to take care of the problem for you if eradication is very difficult. Don’t forget about the outdoors too! Wild animals can carry fleas into shaded areas in the yard. This is often where our pets pick up these parasites.
It can take months to completely remove the fleas from your pet and your home. It is important to be continuously using a good flea and tick preventative year round to prevent infestation of your pet. Prevention is much easier than treatment, for both you and your pet. Talk with Dr. Brianna Reid or Dr. Michael Reid at your pets’ next appointment about his or her flea prevention program.