SHANA SAVIKKO, DVM
- Fleas can bite up to 400 times a day!
- Fleas can jump ...
- a distance that measures 150 times their own size.
- 30,000 times in a row without stopping.
- in opposite direction (left and right) with every jump.
- A female flea consumes 15 times her own body weight in blood every day.
- A female flea can lay 2,000 eggs.
- Just one flea can multiply to 1,000 fleas on your pet and in your home in 21 days.
- Flea fossils date all the way back to the Lower Cretaceous period … about 100 million years!
- On average, a flea lives 2-3 months.
- Adult fleas spend most of their lives feasting on your pet.
All of these facts mean one thing: fleas are tough to deal with.
The good news is, new veterinary-grade products not only kill adult fleas but prevent young fleas from maturing. With these products—plus time, patience and perseverance--you can get rid of fleas.
No dog or cat needs to live with fleas. Here are a few tips for relieving your pets’ misery. To learn more about fleas and what you can do about them, see the resources at the end of the article.
Use a veterinary-grade flea insecticide on your pet. The purpose is to kill the adult fleas that live on your pet. Since most veterinary-grade products work for at least 30 days, your pet is well-protected. That’s because a veterinary-grade product will kill the adult fleas that jump onto your pet—and the eggs or larvae, too.
Even better: The newest veterinary-grade products contain growth inhibitors that prevent fleas from maturing.
Dogs and cats need different care. Several formulations can be used to rid your pet of fleas, including topical and oral treatments. But not every product is right for every pet. For example, some products are fine for dogs but unsafe for cats. If you share your home with both dogs and cats, you’ll want to avoid treating your dog with products that are unsafe for cats. Let your veterinarian know if you share your home with both dogs and cats so you can be sure to protect all of your pets safely.
More is not better. Never use more than one flea product on your pet without your veterinarian’s approval. Using a shampoo or dip along with a topical or oral flea product can cause your pet to take in too much of the active ingredients in these products, leading to a bad reaction or even poisoning.
There was a day when it seemed you had to kill fleas over and over again, or spray your house and yard with dangerous pesticides, because the parasites kept reproducing. That day is over.
With veterinary-grade products that contain growth inhibitors, fleas do not mature, which means no more eggs! This means you probably won’t need to spray your home or yard.
The best way to rid your home of fleas is by vacuuming. Research at The Ohio State University proved that vacuuming kills 96% of adult fleas and 100% of young fleas. This is an easy way to deal with the fleas living in your carpet and fabrics, but needs to be done every 2-3 days for at least four weeks.
When vacuuming, pay special attention to the places fleas like best. Immature fleas shy away from light, burying themselves in carpets, fabrics, and nooks and crannies. Be sure to focus your efforts on areas that are shady or dark.
When you are done vacuuming, put the vacuum bag in a garbage bag, seal it tightly, and put it in an outdoor trash container.
Wash your pet’s bedding once a week for at least four weeks. Or throw it away.
If your pet lives outdoors where fleas are plentiful, you may need to treat the yard. Most fleas are found in your pet’s bedding and areas where your pet rests or spends time. If you are using one of the new veterinary-approved products, the yard is not the highest of concern. Just be sure to clean the area and wash or change the bedding.
In most cases, unless you have an extreme infestation, vacuuming frequently and treating your pet with a veterinary-grade product that includes a growth inhibitor is all you need to do keep your pet flea-free.
Don't forget about heartworm prevention while tackling the issue of pet parasites. The American Heartworm Society and the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommend that all pets receive year-round heartworm protection so that pets are protected every month. It is critical that doses not be skipped or intervals between doses be extended because this results in an unprotected time during which animals may be exposed to heartworm larvae. Pets should also have annual heartworm testing by a veterinarian prior to prescribing a heartworm medication.
You can learn more about fleas at:
Cat Fleas’ Journey into the Vacuum Is a ‘One-Way Trip’
The Mightly Flea, April PetsMatter
Ridding Your Home of Fleas
The Flea Days of Summer
Taking the Bite Out of Fleas and Ticks
Revised and updated Dec. 18, 2012.
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter May/June 09 - Volume 4 Issue 3, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.