We’re always taking queries about fleas from owners at their wit’s end when they just can’t seem to get rid of them.
The (unwanted!) answer is, unfortunately there’s no quick and easy way to completely rid your pet of a flea infestation.
However, understanding the flea life cycle can help us understand the importance of prevention, as well as help us to treat them.
The flea life cycle
The flea cycle is comprised of four stages:
Eggs hatched by the adult flea tend to fall off the dog or cat and end up in the pet’s environment. How long they take to hatch (anywhere between two days to two weeks) tends to depend on the conditions they end up in – they prefer warm, humid conditions so you may find a resurgent flea problem when you turn on your central heating.
Flea larvae will spend several weeks eating pre-digested blood (this is the flea dirt you can sometimes see) from adult fleas. If conditions are suitable for them, the larvae will spin cocoons within 5-20 days, leading to the pupae stage.
This is the final developmental stage, and can be the longest. Pupae will not become adult fleas unless the environmental conditions are right, meaning that they could remain in this stage for months or even years (!). They will look for a potential host by being alert to vibrations, humidity or body heat. Only when they have identified a host, be it animal or human, will the pupae become adults.
Adult fleas like to live on pets, getting their nutrients by drinking the blood of the host animal. Once they have found a host animal to live on and had a good feed, they will start laying eggs within a few hours, meaning the whole cycle starts again.
Now you know why we can’t predict when your pet will be flea-free!
So…how do I get rid of fleas on my pet?
Regular treatment with a flea product is the best way to help ensure your pet remains flea-free. If they are already infested you need to use a product or combination of products to treat each stage of the flea’s life cycle. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best products for your pet and their conditions.
Remember, different flea products may only be effective on different parts of the flea lifecycle – for example, one product may kill only adult fleas whilst another can kill pupae or larvae. Some products can be effective in controlling fleas in your home as well as on your pet.
My pet keeps getting re-infested…
We’ve got bad news: If your pet has a flea infestation, then so does your house. This means everything from the carpets, to the sofa, to the gaps between your floorboards!
To make sure you don’t enter a pattern of your house re-infesting your pet, make sure you treat your house with a specially designed spray to kill the larvae and pupae nesting in your furnishings.
It’s also important to vaccum regularly and wash soft furnishings (including your pet’s bed) to keep things flea-free.
I’m just not very good at applying the treatment…
We know that applying treatment to a wriggly, fluffy and – in some cases – rather cross pet can be difficult. That’s why we’re happy to help you with applying treatment to your pets – a number of our branches offer clinics to assist in applying flea products. Please ask at your local Medivet about whether this kind of assistance is available.
Certain products may be ingested via the mouth which can be a lot easier.
Our advice on which products to treat your pet with will depend on the individual animal so please speak to your vet regarding the products most suitable.
My pet has a parasite problem but I don’t think it’s fleas…
We’re going to be discussing a range of other parasites on this blog next week so make sure you check out our next post!
Remember that, if you think your pet has a health issue, it’s always best to see a vet first.
Need advice or care for your pet? Find your local Medivet by using our online practice finder.
Posted June 3, 2014 in Preventative Healthcare