Fleas are the most common external parasite on dogs and cats. They tend to build up during the summer months and early fall, but can be a year round problem indoors. Fleas cause itching and irritation which leads to dermatitis that can become severe if your pet becomes allergic to the flea bites.
Fleas prefer dogs and cats, but when they are in sufficient numbers they will start to bite you. Control of fleas has always been a challenge because only adult fleas live on the pet. The majority of the flea population (eggs, larvae, and pupa) live off the pet, in and around the house. The adult fleas cause all of the symptoms, but represent less than 10% of the total flea life cycle population.
The Flea Life Cycle
Eggs are laid in the hair coat of pets and fall off in and around the house. Eggs are resistant to many insecticides. Eggs hatch and develop into larvae which feed on digested blood excreted by the adult flea. Larvae then develop into pupae (cocoons) and can remain dormant or develop rapidly into adults. Pupae are also resistant to insecticides. The life cycle of the flea is about 21 days in the right conditions but can be as short as 16 days. Adult females live 4-6 weeks and can lay up to 40 eggs per day. Once adult fleas emerge they are very hungry and will immediately seek a blood meal from your pet. Yuck!
Physical cleaning and vacuuming your environment is very helpful in reducing the amount of eggs and immature fleas. But eggs and immature fleas are very small and can hide in the smallest places and some stages can lay dormant until the right conditions exist. Total flea control requires cleaning and treatment of the environment as well as treatment of the pet. It is much easier to prevent fleas than treat them once they have infested the house and pets.
Common Flea Control Products:
Lufeneron is available in a once per month tablet or oral solution branded Program and in the prescription heartworm medicine branded Sentinel. Lufeneron keeps flea eggs from hatching, helping to break the flea life cycle. It is also available from your veterinarian as a six month injection for cats.
Pyriproxifen (Nylar) is an insect growth regulator found in many household sprays and foggers. Brands include Mycodex and Virbac Knockout. One treatment can last up to 150 days, but always follow the instructions found on the product’s label.
Imidacloprid is a topical adult pesticide for pets applied monthly. Advantage II for Cats and Advantage II for Dogs contain imidacloprid. It is combined with permethrin for tick control in dogs in the branded product Advantix II. Advantix should not be applied to cats. Imidacloprid is combined with moxidectin in the prescription topical medications for heartworm prevention, the branded products Advantage Multi for Cats and Advantage Multi for Dogs.
Fipronil is a topical adult insecticide found in Frontline, Certifect, Effipro for Cats, Effitix for Dogs, and many other products. These products are applied topically once a month. Fipronil controls both fleas and ticks. In Frontline Plus and Certifect, it is combined with S-Methoprene, an insect growth regulator, to control adult and immature fleas. Certifect and Effitix should not be used on cats.
Selamectin is a prescription medicine for dogs and cats that controls fleas and heartworms as well as other listed parasites. Selamectin is available as a product branded Revolution for Cats and Revolution for Dogs and is applied topically to the pet once per month
Nitenpyram is the flea medicine contained in Capstar Tablets. It kills fleas rapidly as soon as it is ingested by the dog or cat. It only lasts a short time but can be repeated daily as needed.
Secondary Problems Caused by Fleas
Fleas are not only a nuisance, they can also cause severe diseases in pets. Fleas carry tapeworm larvae which can lead to tapeworm infections in dogs and cats. All pets infested with fleas should be wormed for tapeworms after the fleas are under control. Virbantel is an excellent tapeworm treatment.
Even a few fleas can cause skin problems in dogs and cats and may not even be readily observable. This may cause skin problems which are hard to discern from seasonal allergies since both are common in the spring, summer, and fall.
It is easier and less expensive to prevent fleas than treat them once they have infested your house and pets. So, start your pet on a flea preventative today.
Which flea preventatives have you used on your pet? How did the flea medicine work? Do you have suggestion on controlling fleas in the home? Please leave your comments below.
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