The flea is a small, flightless insect and is the most predominant external parasite associated with dogs and cats. Adults are about 3 mm long and laterally compressed (very thin), making them hard to see.
- Outdoor flea infestations are common
- Crawl spaces, under porches, in community areas where animals frequent
- Flea eggs can be deposited in the environment by infested opossums, raccoons, and stray dogs
- Fleas can also hitch a ride inside on pet owners’ clothing and on other untreated pets
- Pets can pick up fleas from untreated pets at public locations such as parks or pet friendly stores
- Even “truly indoor” pets can develop flea infestations
Biology and Feeding
A single flea can bite a host up to 400 times per day!
A female flea can consume up to 15 times her weight in blood daily!
Blood meals are passed as fecal material referred to as “flea dirt”
Easily identified if it turns bright red when wiped with a wet paper towel
Presence on a host is evidence of a flea infestation
Prevention and Control
An adult female flea lays 25 to 50 eggs per day and up to 2,000 eggs in her lifetime
On average fleas live 2 to 3 months but can live much longer in certain conditions
Entire life cycle can be completed in 12 to 14 days.
- Attributes of flea control products to consider:
- Speed of kill
- Whether multiple stages of the flea life cycle are targeted
- Duration of efficacy
Once you have fleas in your house you may find it difficult to stop the infestation and remove the fleas from your pet and your home. Giving your dog or cat a bath or treating them with flea spray will rid them of fleas but if your home remains infested then you will still have a problem. Remember; if you have an indoor/outdoor cat they may be bringing in those pesky buggers on a continuous basis. So, let’s begin with removing the fleas from your home.
You may have heard or read about flea traps and wonder if they work and are a legitimate way of controlling fleas in your home. Simply put, flea traps do work but only for removing adult fleas in certain areas (e.g. the living room). They need to be used as part of an overall flea control plan that involves killing flea eggs, putting preventative measures in place to keep them away and treating your dogs for fleas (or your cats, etc.) Just to make things perfectly clear, these traps will not solve any fleas that may be lurking on your pets, they will completely ignore them!
Home made flea traps: Light bulb, soap and water traps can be easily made at home. Fleas and bugs are attracted to light so the basic process is to suspend or lean a light source (such as a small bedside lamp or an electric bulb) over a shallow pan or bowl that is full of water and soap. When the adult fleas come and investigate the light, they hop right into the bowl (to get closer to the light) and drown. Another method is to plug in a night light and slide a square, plastic pan/dish half full of soapy water against the wall.
You want fleas to be drawn to the trap, therefore it’s best to put them in place before you go to bed at night. This will also keep your dog from drinking the soapy mixture during the day. Once the room lights are out, the traps will draw the fleas and other bugs throughout the night. In the morning you will likely find numerous dead fleas and bugs in the water. Remember to empty the water in each trap in the morning to keep things hygienic.
If you have not used a flea preventative on your pet, you can use Adam’s Flea and Tick Spray, which is an insecticide and will kill most fleas and ticks on contact. This product cannot be used in conjunction with other flea and tick products as it will cause a reaction in most pets. If your pet is so infested that a bath is needed, a bath with Murphy’s Oil Soap (yes, the same one you use on your coffee table) will rid your dog of fleas without the use of harsh chemicals. Murphy’s will also give their coat a nice shine and pleasant smell and will replace the oils in their coat that most shampoos strip out. You’ll want to use warm water for a bath with Murphy’s and be sure to use a slightly diluted solution of the soap, let the solution soak on the fur for 10 minutes then rinse thoroughly.
Vacuuming repeatedly is important when trying to rid your home of fleas. It is best to use a vacuum that requires a removable bag. It is recommended to remove the bag and throw it away or burn it after each vacuuming to ensure that the fleas are out of your home.
Stopping a flea infestation can be a daunting task but these methods will certainly help you win the war. As always, the best weapon is prevention. Seresto collars (flea and tick collars that are good for 8 months), Advantix II and Frontline (both are topical liquids applied to a pets shoulder area) are all preventative treatments proven to help keep pets flea free. Visit Misty Pines to find these preventatives in our store.
The flea season is worse when the climate becomes colder; when summer turns to fall, because these pesky buggers are seeking warmer conditions: your pet and your home!