Fleas and quality flea products.
By Dr. Kyle Norman
Fleas, just the mention of fleas will send a chill down your spine and also make you suddenly very itchy for no reason. These tiny creatures have been a nuisance to both man and beast for centuries and even today with effective flea treatments they can turn into a big problem in a hurry. So we are going to spend a little time getting to know about fleas, how to prevent an infestation and how to get rid of a flea infestation.
Fleas belong to the insect family and there are several different species of fleas dependent on their host such as the dog, cat, rat and human flea. There are four stages of the flea life cycle including eggs, larva, pupae, and the adult. Fleas are about 1/16th of an inch in size and dark in color. Fleas are external parasites and adults feed by consuming the blood of the host. They have specialized mouths that allow them to pierce the host skin and reach the capillary blood vessels. Fleas are very good at jumping which helps them to get from the environment onto a host.
Eggs are laid by the female while on the host. As the host moves the eggs can roll off of the host and be deposited in the environment. Areas where the animal sleeps and rests become littered with thousands of eggs. After about 2 weeks the eggs hatch into larva that feed off of organic debris in the environment including pet dander, flea dirt, and even crumbs of pet food. After 2-3 weeks in the larval stage the flea will make a cocoon and wait for external signals that a host might be near, this is the pupae stage. Signals that a host may be near include vibrations, heat, and even shifts in carbon dioxide. Fleas can stay in the pupae stage for several months if there isn’t is not an appropriate signal for them to hatch as an adult. As soon as fleas emerge as adults they look for a host to take a blood meal. As soon as females have a blood meal they start producing eggs and the life cycle is complete.
Prevention is the key with fleas because your pet can pick up fleas at any time during the year even the middle of winter. Keep all pets on a quality flea preventative year around, and make sure to follow the manufacturers label for species of animal the product can be used on, appropriate size dose and frequency of application. If you have any questions about what type of product to purchase, contact your local veterinarian. Even though your pet may be protected they can still pick up fleas in the environment and you may see them, but the flea preventative should kill the flea before they are able to reproduce and cause an infestation. That is why it is so important to be consistent with using a quality flea preventative.
Managing a flea infestation is an uphill battle, but it is a battle that can be won with some time. When you notice a flea problem it is important to follow some simple steps to get the problem under control.
1. Make sure all pets in the household are on a quality flea product.
2. Vacuum the house daily to suck up as many flea eggs, larva, and pupae as possible. The noise and vibration from the vacuum also stimulates fleas to emerge from the pupae stage sooner and helps to cut down on the time it takes to kill the fleas. Once you are done vacuuming for the day the bag needs to go outside so that fleas don’t make their way out of the vacuum and back into the house.
3. Wash bedding and areas where animals rest and sleep because these are natural flea egg deposit areas.
4. Flea foggers and bombs can be very helpful to kill fleas in the house. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for use and safety.
5. Eliminate outside pressures as much as possible. Animals like feral cats, squirrels and other outside critters can make a flea problem much harder to deal with because we can’t treat them with a flea product. These wild animals continue to deposit flea eggs in the environment where our pets go outside.
6. Keeping lawns trimmed also helps to minimize areas where fleas can live.
Any questions, please call the Harmony Veterinary Clinic at 507-886-6321 or the Cresco Veterinary Clinic at 563-547-3121.