Why flea products seem to fail

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It’s the time of year when fleas are in full force and keeping your pet free of fleas is a challenge. Here are some pertinent facts about the lifecycle of Ctenocephalides felis (commonly known as the Cat Flea):

When a flea jumps on a pet it bites that pet to get a blood meal (this bite and the flea’s saliva causes an allergic reaction leading to your pet itching and scratching). After a blood meal the female flea can lay eggs in the hair coat within 24 hours. A female that stays on your pet’s hair coat can produce up to 50 eggs per day. These eggs fall into the environment, which for many people is the carpet in their home.

This is why it is important to kill the flea before it can become this egg factory. This is what most flea products do. Keep in mind flea products take several hours to several days to kill all of the fleas on your pet when first applied.

The eggs that drop from your pet’s hair coat go from egg to larvae to pupa to adult flea within 3-8 weeks, all depending on temperature, humidity, and the ability to find a new host to bite. It is these hungry adult fleas that hatch after this time period that causes so much ongoing trouble with continual infestation of your pet. They even make you think a product you have been using effectively in the past is no longer killing them.

Current flea products are convenient to use, whether oral or topical, and are effective when used once per month. There is even a collar that will kill fleas for 8 months. It should be remembered that even though these products kill fleas on your pet, that is only 5% of the fleas lifecycle as you learned above.

Once you use a flea product and start killing adult fleas it takes several months for all the fleas in the larval and pupal stages to hatch and become adults. Once they are adults and jump on your pet for their blood meal they will be killed by your flea product, and eventually you will have no more fleas in your environment, as long as there is no continual source of new fleas. It is at this point you have your fleas under control.

Until this point your pet will be exposed to fleas in its immediate environment on a continual basis as the fleas hatch continually and adult fleas jump on your pet. These are the fleas you see on its hair coat, making you think your product is not working.

How do we prevent this continual exposure of these fleas in the local environment from pestering your pet continually?

  1. Use your flea products year round. This step alone will probably solve your problem. Since many flea products do more than control fleas your pet will also be healthier regarding heartworm and internal parasites (worms).
  2. Flea comb your pet before your bring it into your house after it goes outdoors, especially a dog park or similar area.
  3. Vacuum your household carpet, where your pet sleeps, furniture, rugs, and flooring daily. Find where your pet’s fur accumulates, and go under baseboards, ventilators, and furniture. Pre-adult fleas like darkness so vacuum under beds and cracks in your wood floor.
  4. Put a flea collar or flea powder in the vacuum cleaner bag. Put the flea infested bag in a sealed plastic container and discard.
  5. Wear white socks and walk around your house to see if fleas jump on your socks as a way to monitor.
  6. Use borate powder products, a non-toxic powder, that desiccates the fleas in your carpet.
  7. Wash your pet’s bedding in hot water and let it soak in soapy water for at least 15 minutes prior to washing.
  8. Time routine bathing for just prior to when your next topical flea product application is due to maximize its effectiveness.
  9. If visitors bring their pets over make sure they are flea free by requesting them to be treated prior to a visit. Fleas on visiting animals do not usually jump from pet to pet, but they will contaminate the environment.
  10. Treat all pets in your house. This commonsense suggestion is often overlooked.
  11. Clean your car and pet carriers
  12. Treat your immediate outdoor environment if that is a continual source of new fleas.
  13. Feral dogs, cats, raccoons, and opossums that take up residence or roam through your yard need to be controlled. Rabbits and squirrels are seldom a source of fleas.