How to get rid of fleas
Fleas can be a problem even in the most spotless home or on the cleanest pet.
Fleas are a parasite and there are different species such as dog fleas, cat fleas, rabbit fleas and even human fleas! In fact there are over 2000 subspecies of fleas and many species can infest more than one host species.
Fleas only suck blood from their hosts as adults. A flea can live from between 14 days to one year and a female can consume 15 times its body weight in blood and then lay eggs within 35 hours of its first blood meal and continue to lay up to 50 eggs in one day - that's 2,000 in a lifetime!
Some types of flea can leap more than a hundred times their own body length.
If you find a flea on your pet, there is more than likely to be an infestation on your pets and around your home. Adult fleas are only a small percentage of the total population of a given infestation. It is estimated that 95 percent of flea eggs, larvae and pupae live in the environment, not on your pet.
Prevent fleas becoming a problem by regularly treating both your pet and your home. This may need to be done all year round if you have centrally heating.
The life cycle of a flea
Fleas have a lifespan of two to three months.
There four stages of life for the insects: egg, larva, pupae and fully-fledged adult.
The egg stage: Up to 50 percent of the population. They are laid on the host, but will often fall off into the environment the host lives in. An egg can hatch in a day but up to six days is common.
The Larva stage: Up to 25 percent of the population
The Pupae stage: Up to 20 percent of the population. The pupae stage is, essentially, a sort of middle ground between the larva and the fully adult flea – the front mandibles have formed, but the back legs (used for jumping between hosts) have not. Indeed, a pupae stage flea can remain in this state for up to 220 days until they find a suitable host, or the environment around them is appropriate for maturing into a full adult. During the pupae stage, fleas are wrapped up in a silken cocoon that’s resistant to insecticides and often spun around the base of the fabric fibres they’re on – they can be very difficult to kill or remove.
Adult: Accounting for only 5 percent of the population. They’re at their most vulnerable when the flea emerges from its pupa as it only has about one week to find a blood meal – aka, host – otherwise, it will die.
A product must eliminate at least 90% of the fleas or their reproduction remains out of control.
Due to the long dormancy period where they are resistant to elimination, if you have fleas, it is likely to be nearly a year before you remove the infestation.
Treat both your pet and your home, as fleas can survive without a host for many months. Visit your vet for advice on the best products.
Clean bedding regularly and vacuum furniture, floors and skirting boards to help destroy fleas at each stage of their lifecycle.
Throw away the dust bag from your vacuum after each use.
Only give your pet flea treatment that has been recommended for them. Products suitable for one species may not be suitable for another e.g. some dog flea treatments contain permethrin, an insecticide that is safe for dogs but highly toxic to cats.
Fleas are much, much easier to prevent than eliminate so if you have pets or a potential rodent situation, begin your flea control before you see fleas.
Flea treatment for cats and dogs
According to several studies, the reasons most common for pet owners to get fleas are:
They don’t purchase any products to prevent fleas
They purchase veterinary products without proven efficacy (products without scientific data to support they work)
They use “homemade” remedies, of course, without any scientific data, though there may be online support on certain websites
They do buy appropriate veterinary products that would work well, but forget to use them or use them incorrectly or inconsistently
They buy products that did work, but no longer are as effective.
Flea products you can buy over the counter have a very limited effect and will not generally control the flea population enough to eliminate them.
Fipronil based products were the leaders in the market, however, it has recently been discovered that Fipronil no longer works as well. This is disputed by the manufactures, presumable as they have large stocks to get rid of, but it is no longer a prescription only product and can now be obtained in many over the counter shops. Many vets do still sell Fipronil based products, but please ask them why they are suggesting you use this because, you many not have fleas now, but if you get them, it will not manage to get rid.
Frontline and Frontline Plus are among the most popular topical flea control products. Yet over and over again on discussion boards and in forums, you see comments from dog and cat owners claiming that Frontline isn’t working. A flea is a very resilient creature — difficult to control because it reproduces so rapidly, and difficult to kill because of its bodily structure. Can a flea build up a resistance to chemicals such as fipronil, a key ingredient in Frontline? Possibly. Evidence exists that insects can become immune to certain chemicals over time.
If you are using a commercial topical product like Frontline, be sure you are following the manufacturer’s application instructions precisely. If you suspect it is not controlling your pet’s fleas, you may, in certain cases, be able to reapply it in as little as two weeks and try again. Speak to your veterinarian about this first.
There are always new products on the market, discuss with your vet what is currently working and which they would advise.
Check for fleas
Is your pet scratching?
Can you see tiny dark specks in its fur, or small browny-black insects scurrying about?
Do you have any unaccounted for insect bites or red lumps yourself?
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions – it could mean fleas. Still in doubt? Groom your pet with a fine-tooth comb held over white surface - any fleas or droppings will be deposited on the surface. Add a few drops of water and if the droppings turn reddish brown it's very likely your pet has fleas.
Flea bites can make your pet uncomfortable and itchy but they can also bring a host of other problems...
Historically known for spreading the bubonic plague.
Pets can be hypersensitive to flea saliva and suffer an allergic reaction.
Fleas feed on blood, so young or frail animals can become weak and even die as a result of blood loss and anaemia.
Flea larvae can become infected with tapeworm eggs. If your pet eats an infected flea it can become host to this parasite. If your pet has fleas you should also make sure your pet is treated for worms.
Fleas can also pass diseases to your pets. For example, myxomatosis is a serious disease in rabbits which can be spread by fleas.
Fact or Fiction
Vampires are immune to flea bites?