Fleas. Do you cringe at the thought of them? Have you ever had an infestation? If not, consider yourself lucky. It is a hard battle to win once fleas get a foot hold.
Why are Fleas so Hard to Control?
The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felix, is the most commonly found flea in the US. It infests cats, dogs, humans, and other mammalian and avian species and lives off of the blood of these hosts.
The adult flea lives on the host animal where it lays its eggs. A single adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day, as many as 500-600 eggs over several months. The eggs are not sticky so they fall off the host onto the carpet or into the furniture where they can remain for months as they continue their life cycle into larvae and pupa. The pupa is not effected by insecticides and can hatch just days after fogging or spraying.
The flea life cycle can last from a few weeks to several months, or even years, depending on environmental conditions. That’s what makes them so difficult to eradicate and why you need to use preventative measures even when you think they are under control. No one product or method is adequate to get rid of these pesky, persistent parasites once you have an infestation.
An Ounce of Prevention for Successful Flea Control
Spring is the time to start a program of prevention so that you don’t have an infestation by the end of summer. Pet owners can break the cycle of flea development and prevent future generations by killing the eggs as they are laid on the pet, or by eliminating the egg-laying adults. Several products are available that are convenient and effective.
Program is a pill for dogs or a liquid for cats that is given orally, monthly. When an adult flea bites an animal treated with this product it ingests the active ingredient (lufenuron) which passes to the eggs and prevents the eggs from hatching. Program is available only through your veterinarian. Since the flea has to bite the animal for this product to work, it would not be the one of choice for an animal that has an allergy to flea saliva.
Egg stopper collars can be effective for up to six months but may give unequal distribution over the animal. Conventional flea collars contain insecticides that kill adult fleas but have no effect on the eggs or overall life cycle. Egg stopper collars contain an insect growth regulating (IGR) ingredient (methoprene or pyriproxyfen) which prevents the eggs from hatching. Some brands are available only through your veterinarian. There are also retail versions available — just be sure they contain methoprene or pyriproxyfen.
Most people are familiar with, and prefer using, spot-on topical treatments like Advantage and Frontline. A treatment is applied to the skin between the shoulder blades once a month. Before choosing one for your pet, there are some differences to consider so do some research. Some products control only adults, others control the larvae and still others kill ticks as well.
Whatever method you choose, the earlier you start in the spring the better!
Understanding the Flea Life Cycle
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