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A guide to fleas

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Dogs and cats both get fleas

No animals are immune from picking up or carrying fleas. Most fleas we find on cats and dogs are actually the cat flea. Unfortunately this flea is very adaptable and is quite happy to live on your dog as well. Dogs often show more of a reaction to the flea bites, whilst it is may be the cat that has brought the fleas home. For this reason is it important to treat all the animals in the house for fleas.

The flea life cycle is the key to control

Female fleas lay eggs, these hatch into larvae which eventually pupate. Adult fleas hatch from these pupa. Only adult fleas feed off your pet and do so to lay eggs.

It is hard to keep your pet free of fleas by just killing the adult fleas as you find them. A female flea can lay up to 500 eggs per year and can live for several years. These eggs fall off your pet and into the environment such as carpet, furniture and bedding. Within thirty days, 10 female fleas can multiply to a quarter of a million under ideal conditions!! However, the adult flea only accounts for a tiny part of the flea problem, 95% of the problem is the immature flea stages. The pupa stage of the flea life cycle is impossible to kill - in the early stages of a flea eradication program these pupae can remain an ongoing source of flea re-infestation as they hatch into adult fleas. The pupae can remain alive in their casing for over a year - warmth, high humidity and vibrations are what stimulate the adult flea to hatch out. This is why people often find that their house comes “alive” on returning from a summer holiday.

A coordinated strategy is essential

Below are a series of 3 steps needed to achieve flea control on your pets AND in your home. You must achieve all three for effective control.

  1. Treat the animals (Kill adult fleas) This is to eliminate fleas on the animals. When you treat your pets - do all of them at the same time. This reduces transmission and makes it easier to remember when they were treated. The flea is not fussy whether it bites a dog or a cat (it will not bite humans unless it is very hungry and cannot find a more suitable host to feed off!!!). There are many products around that are effective and easy to use.

  2. Treat the environment (Stop fleas breeding in your home) The immature stages of the flea ( eggs and larvae ) that are hiding in the carpet, bedding etc. account for 95% of the problem and will provide a continued source of hungry fleas that will re-infest your pets. You will either need to kill the larvae with an environmental control compound - Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) or ensure that any eggs laid by the adult flea are infertile by using an appropriate flea control product.

  3. Prevent Reinfestation This can be started at the beginning of the Spring and has as primary goal to reduce the number of fleas over the warmer summer months. By starting early you will not have had the explosive increase in environmental larvae/pupae numbers before you are aware of the problem and the summer “epidemic” of fleas that happens, can then be avoided.

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