Summer is almost here! We all know what that means-bbq’s, beach days, warm sunny weather and…fleas! That’s right, those problematic pests that cause you and your pet to itch are gearing up for summer as well. Summer is prime flea weather because they thrive in warmth and humidity, especially temperatures from 70 to 85 degrees. However, there are things you can do to prevent fleas before they arrive and to combat them if they’re already bothering you and your furry friend, starting with a basic understanding of the flea life cycle.
The flea life cycle involves eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. The adult female takes a blood meal from your pet, and then lays eggs-up to 40 eggs in a day! This stage represents 50% of the flea life cycle. As your pet moves, those eggs are distributed throughout your household and backyard. The eggs then develop into larvae, and this phase can happen in as few as 2 days if the conditions are warm and humid enough. The larvae slowly progress into pupae/cocoons, which have sticky outer coatings making them hard to kill with chemicals or by vacuuming. The pupae can remain dormant deep in carpets for weeks or even years if the conditions are not right for hatching. When the time is right, the pupae hatch into adults and the cycle starts over. This entire life cycle can take anywhere from weeks to months, and it is important to know what you are dealing with when trying to combat an infestation.
If you are dealing with adult fleas on your pet, you can safely assume the rest of the life stages are present as well. To combat an infestation, start by getting your dog or cat on a preventative (more on that later). Vacuum your entire house daily for at least a week or two, and wash all bedding/washable items with hot soapy water. There are chemical products such as sprays or foggers that can be used to treat your house and yard. These should be used safely and with caution, but if needed can be an effective way to help combat the flea life cycle. It may be beneficial to make your house warmer and more humid before vacuuming or treating your house, to encourage the pupae to hatch into adults making them easier to kill. Remembering the length of the life cycle, it is important to maintain all pets, including cats, on a preventative for at least 3 months when combating infestation. Ideally, they should be maintained on a monthly preventative year round to prevent this issue from developing.
By maintaining your pet on an effective monthly flea preventative, you can stop adult fleas that may jump onto your pet from laying eggs and spreading the flea life cycle throughout your house. All the pets in your household should be maintained on a veterinary approved monthly flea preventative. In warm weather states that don’t have cold winters, this should be done year round. For dogs, some great examples are Sentinel (a chewable flea, internal parasite and heartworm preventive monthly tab), Simparica (a chewable flavored monthly tab that kills fleas and ticks) and Effitix (an effective topical that kills fleas and ticks and is not affected by water/bathing). If you have small kids or cats and dogs that like to groom each other, a chewable is a great idea for dogs. For cats, a great option is Revolution (a topical that prevents fleas, heartworm and intestinal parasites). It is important to note that cats cannot receive or have any contact with topical products that are made for dogs-the consequences can be very severe. Many of the over the counter flea medications do not work well. We recommend you discuss the plan with your veterinarian.
So as you gear up for summer fun, don’t forget to make sure your pets are armed and ready to fight fleas! If you have any questions about getting your pet onto a preventative, your veterinarian can put on the right track to finding what will work best for you and all your pets.