Fleas can be a frustrating problem – the biting, the scratching, the bathing, the washing…
The best thing you can do for your dog is prevent fleas altogether. The use of monthly flea preventatives is your best option. Whether or not this treatment is required year round will depend on the climate in your area. However, if your pup does get fleas, it’s good to have a plan of attack.
When approaching flea treatment, you have to understand the flea life cycle, which is comprised of four stages. To treat the flea infestation, you must target more than just the adult flea.
Treating the dog
Products from stores can be of variable efficacy and safety, the latter a particular concern with cats. The best products in which to invest are those from your veterinarian. Let’s face it – if you’re going to treat a flea infestation, it’s best to do it right the first time. However, if you would prefer to purchase a product from a pet store, discuss the best choice with your veterinarian.
Flea collars are ineffective, and shampoos, sprays and powders can have limited residual activity, meaning that your pet can quickly become reinfested after application.
Most veterinary products will last for up to a month following application. Pill and topical forms of flea medications are available. There is also a product called nitenpyram that has no residual activity but will kill all the adult fleas on your pet very quickly. It can be useful to combine nitenpyram with a longer-lasting product to give your pet immediate relief from itching while protecting them from reinfestation. Another precaution to keep in mind: even if only one pet seems to be afflicted, every dog and cat in the household should be treated.
Treating the Environment
As you can see from the flea life cycle, simply treating the pet is insufficient. It is also extremely important to treat the environment.
- Vacuum all the floors and furniture in the house. Vacuuming can encourage adult fleas to emerge from the adult pupae. By vacuuming, you will also collect flea eggs inside the vacuum bag or canister. These eggs can hatch and adult fleas can emerge from your vacuum, so it is essential to throw out the bag or clean out the canister after use. Vacuum your pet’s high traffic areas particularly well.
- Wash your bedding (particularly if your pet sleeps on the beds) and any pet bedding.
- Treat the environment. You can contact local exterminators to have your home professionally treated, but you can also buy products from your veterinarian that contain an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). IGRs target most flea life stages (except the pupae).
- Research safety information on any products prior to use, such as whether masks are necessary and how long you and your pets should stay out of the house after
Involve your veterinarian in flea treatment to ensure that you make the most educated decisions. Remember that where there’s one flea, there’s hundreds of eggs, so even if the problem appears small, it is always necessary to treat the environment as well as the pet. Flea prevention is always worth the investment.
Flea eggs can comprise a huge percentage of the actual flea load in
your home, but they are so tiny you are unlikely to see them. They can fall off your pet and hatch within two to four weeks depending on the temperature and humidity.
Flea larvae do not like bright light, and will move deeper into carpets and couches
to hide as they develop into pupae.
Pupae are very resistant to most insecticides. Typically, the adult flea will emerge from the pupae within a week or so, but it can remain within the cocoon for up to
Only the adult flea feeds on your pets’ blood. They move toward the surface of furniture, flooring and carpeting, and will jump onto a passing pet. It’s true that fleas will jump onto people and even bite them, but if this happens, it’s purely a mistake on the part of the flea. Fleas can only survive on animals.
Snickers, Miniature Dalmatian
While fleas can make your pets quite itchy, other health concerns can arise because of those pesky pests.
- Heavy infestations in young or debilitated animals can result in an anemia, which can be life threatening in some cases.
- Some animals are allergic to components of flea saliva, so even one bite from a single flea can induce extreme itchiness. This is known as a flea allergy. Since these animals become so itchy, they can easily harm their skin through licking, chewing and scratching themselves, leading to bacterial skin infections and moist dermatitis.
- Fleas can also transmit to dogs and cats one of the most common tapeworms – Dipylidium caninum. This is so common that treatment for tapeworms is often included as part of treatment for fleas.