All You Ever Wanted to Know About Fleas and Then Some
So you have fleas and you want to get rid of them. Here are a few facts that you may need to know in order to get started.
#1- There is only one species of flea that commonly infests dogs, cats and your home. It is called the cat flea, but that doesn’t mean that it afflicts only cats. You can find the cat flea on cats, dogs, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, opossums and people. Don’t blame rabbits. They don’t like rabbits. If your animals or you go out into your yard and any wild or feral animals pass through your yard by day or by night, you could have a problem.
#2- If you see fleas on one animal in the household, assume that every animal, including ferrets, probably has them.
#3- Most fleas stay on the animal they are inhabiting and don’t jump from animal to animal. Each animal picks up its own fleas either in the house or in the yard. The fleas you bring in on your pants, however, will jump off and find a more suitable host, so even if your cat or dog doesn’t go outside, they can still get fleas by hitching a ride or jumping through screen windows. Animals “share” their fleas through the laying of eggs that seed down the environment.
#4- Only about 5% of the fleas in an environment are adults residing on your animals. The vast majority of the flea population resides in cracks, carpeting and shaded areas outdoors. These stages of the flea’s life cycle include eggs, larvae and pupae. The only stage of the life cycle impervious to chemicals is the pupa. The pupa is safely sealed away from everything except extreme heat, such as steam cleaning.
#5- Fleas are very efficient at taking over a suitable environment.
-An adult flea consumes up to 15 times its body weight in blood daily.
-A female flea can lay 40 – 50 eggs in a day.
-The eggs are NOT sticky so they roll off wherever the animal is at the time, like salt falling out of a salt shaker.
-Eggs can take only 2 days to hatch or can take as long as one month depending on the conditions.
-Fleas spend 1 – 2 weeks as larvae, living in carpeting or bedding and feeding mostly on flea feces that have fallen off the pet.
-The larvae quickly develop into pupae, which can take from 2 – 6 weeks to hatch. The pupae are sticky and cannot be easily removed
from the environment. This is the most difficult stage to eliminate. They are protected against chemicals and drying and are
susceptible only to extreme heat. Activity or vibrations triggers them to “hatch.” Without activity to trigger them to emerge, pupae
can remain viable in an unoccupied house for as long as a year and still hatch.
Now That You Know All That, How Do You Get Rid of Them?
#1- Treat every animal in the environment (this means inside and outside animals) at the same time. Use an effective adulticide that has residual activity.
Frontline Gold, Nexgard and Vectra are among those that last a month at a time.
These products can take 1 – 24 hours to kill all the adult fleas on the animal.
The continuance of fleas on the animal does not represent failure of the product. It is more representative of the number of immature fleas
that continue to develop in the household.
#2- Treat the environment.
-Usually this involves a good deal of vacuuming making sure to include under cushions, pillows, beds etc. Remember that only the pupal
stage cannot be removed by vacuuming.
-Wash all washable bedding to remove eggs and larvae.
-Treat the yard if you have a shady yard or one in which a lot of animals pass through.
-Bayer has several indoor/outdoor insecticides that are very effective.
-If you want to hasten the process use of premise sprays and flea bombs is advisable. When using these, be sure to first vacuum and
then spray beneath couches, tables and beds or any furniture under which a mist will not settle. Then use the appropriate number of
flea bombs to cover every area of the house in which your pets spend time.
#3- Expect it to take 2 – 3 months or even more to clear a bad infestation.
-Fleas will continue to come in from outdoors during warm weather.
-All stages of the life cycle must be removed for the cycle to be broken.
*-You may see a temporary spike in numbers 3 – 8 weeks after starting treatment as this is how long it may take for the eggs and pupae that
are not removed to hatch and to show themselves. This does not represent a new infestation. This represents the number of fleas that were able
to avoid being removed or killed during their normal life cycle.
#4- Continue to treat your pets on a regular basis, not missing any doses in order to prevent the cycle from becoming re-established in the house.
Here are a few other quirky facts:
-Fleas jump toward white. This is why white animals will appear to have more fleas than others. This is also helpful in helping you to find problem areas in the house. Put on white socks and walk around to see where fleas are jumping.
-Fleas will overwinter in the house.
-Fleas will inhabit shady, moist areas of the yard. Don’t waste your time treating sunny locations. They cannot tolerate the sun.
-An animal that is allergic to fleas may react severely to just one flea.
-Fleas like to occupy the rump and neck of cats and dogs.
-Fleas can carry tapeworms.
-Fleas can carry plague and other diseases.
-Crawl spaces, doormats and entryways are all places fleas can inhabit.
-Don’t forget that wild animals and strays carry fleas into your yard.
-Fleas can and do kill young and weak animals.