Tiny Invaders Fleas (Part 1 of 3)
They are out there and they are trying to get on your pet and in your home. They bite your pet, carry diseases, and give you the creepy crawlies. Fleas are truly a year round problem, even here. Winter only slows them down a little, and now that spring is here….
Looking for fleas on your pet is not the best way to find out if they have them. When it comes to fleas, once you add in all the eggs, maggots, and cocoons that are hiding out in the yard, or worse, in your house, adult fleas only represent 5% of what has infested the environment. Not all pets itch at flea bites either, so looking for a scratching pet is unreliable. While some pets can have severe allergic reactions to flea bites, others have no reaction at all, and there are other reasons pets may be itchy. Besides, if we wait until we see an adult flea or have itchy pets, then every place your pet walks, sits or sleeps is already infested.
The products you spot on your pet’s back, are great, but not perfect. First, they must be applied every 30 days. This applies to ALL brands. So we have to remember to do that, and we are all busy people that can forget things at times, no one is perfect. If you are fully entrenched in the digital age, try putting a monthly reminder in your smart phone, to go off at a time when you are at home with your pet. Our online pharmacy has a monthly subscription that will deliver a single dose every month. When it arrives on your doorstep, put it on your pet, it will show up again at the right time for the next dose, no remembering required. When a dose is skipped or even just late, fleas can start to invade.
Second, these products are NOT 100% effective throughout the entire 30 days, although they are close. But if the efficacy drops to 99%, then every 1 out of 100 fleas could survive, and when fleas are capable of laying 50 eggs per day, and can start laying eggs within minutes of starting to feed on your pet, they are going to add up quickly. I personally want a back up method.
Insect growth regulators
That brings us to insect growth regulators, or IGRs. They prevent the eggs and maggots from hatching and growing into adults, like birth control for fleas. Some topicals have them, so then everywhere your pet goes, they spread it around to help treat the environment. Other versions are systemic and are given orally or by injection.
If you do have an infestation
- Treat all the pets that live in the house, not just the ones that go outside. Every dog, every cat. Remember to treat rabbits and ferrets too, but please ask your vet which product to use since some products can be extremely harmful to these species.
- Wash bedding and blankets in hot water.
- Treat the environment with sprays that will kill the fleas. Carpets, under furniture, all sides of the couch and its cushions… basically anything that you can’t wash.
- Then vacuum every day for 21 days. Why 21 days? Because that is how long the flea needs to stay in the cocoon before hatching, and while it is inside the cocoon, there is not a single chemical known that can kill it. Vacuuming will stimulate the flea to hatch out of the cocoon into your freshly treated environment and onto your freshly treated pet so it will die. After each vacuuming session, throw away the vacuum bag or dump the canister into the trash, the take the trash out.
- Makes sure all pets get dewormed to treat for tapeworms, and any pets that are allergic to fleas should be treated by the vet for itching and secondary skin infections.
Even with doing everything right, it can take 4-5 months to clear a house of an infestation, and if one of those cocoons survives, it could all come back again. Preventing fleas is much better than trying to get rid of them.
Remember to consult with your veterinarian about what products will work best for you and your pets. Buy your products at a veterinary office to ensure the quality and the manufacture guarantees (these are voided when sold over the counter).
Written by Dana Hatfield, D.V.M
May 9, 2013