By Amy Kelly, Kingsland Blvd Animal Clinic
Flea infestations don’t happen overnight. In fact, they usually begin 6-8 weeks before you ever even NOTICE a flea! That’s when your pet (or you) brings in a few fleas from outside. Once on your pet, fleas begin feeding and breeding — and laying the groundwork for what you are seeing today. By the time you notice fleas on your pets, there can be THOUSANDS of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae right under your feet — ready to start an infestation in your house! The highest number of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae will be found in the areas of the house where the pets spend most of their time, such as beds, furniture, etc. Even though fleas may be in your house, you may not be able to see them; the eggs are too small to see without magnification and the larvae migrate deep down into the carpets, furniture, or cracks in the floors AWAY from the light.
As these new fleas emerge, your flea population may look like it is getting WORSE, but that means the infestation is running its course. Once you have applied a flea prevention, any fleas on your pet will be killed fast, before they can produce another generation of fleas. BUT, all of the eggs, larvae, and pupae already in the environment will mature into new fleas — usually within 1-2 months of applying your flea prevention.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO:
1. Treat ALL animals in the environment (inside dogs AND cats, outside dogs AND cats) with a flea prevention. This is absolutely critical to eliminating the fleas in your environment.
2. Vacuum floors and furniture thoroughly and regularly. This can remove a large number of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae that are present in your home. You will need to throw away the vacuum bag or empty out the container immediately to prevent eggs and larvae from developing inside the vacuum cleaner.
3. Launder all pets’ bedding and other washable household materials in HOT water. Do it as often as possible.
4. Talk to a professional exterminator about using a pest control in the house and the yard. They should use an insecticide AND an insect growth regulator on your home. Vacuum before ANY inside treatments, as the vibrations will encourage newly developed fleas to emerge from the pupae, which can then be killed by the insecticide.
It is critical that your pets remain on flea prevention for a minimum of three months for treatment. Because the flea prevention destroys the flea’s ability to reproduce, once all of the eggs/larvae/pupae mature and are killed by the prevention, the cycle is broken. This usually happens between the 2nd and 3rd months.
** Remember, your pet can still pick up new fleas from the same place that they got them in the first place (your yard, the neighborhood, the dog parks, etc). By keeping them on a flea prevention every month all year long, it will prevent them from having viable fleas with the ability to reproduce.** Consistency is key!
Q: Why do I still see fleas on my pet after applying the flea prevention?
A: Pets can continue to be infested with new fleas, if they come into contact with a site where fleas are developing and emerging. You may also notice some fleas become hyperactive before they die when they come in contact with some preventions.
*Also remember, most preventions will kill the flea when they come in contact with the medication or a bloodmeal, SO fleas can still get on your pet. We do not have a flea repellent that works by keeping the fleas completely of your pet.
Q: Where do these new fleas come from?
A: Fleas start from eggs, which fall off infested animals and develop into larvae and pupae indoors (in carpeting, cracks in flooring, upholstery, pets’ bedding) and outdoors (under shady, protected areas such as decks, crawl spaces, and shrubs). This is a site of a flea infestation. Immature stages of fleas already present in an environmental infestation continue to develop into new adult fleas LONG AFTER the adult fleas on the pet are killed. It can take several weeks for these immature stages that are already in the environment to complete their development, potentially exposing the pet to new fleas every day until the infestation runs its course. These emerging fleas will be killed when they jump on your treated pet.
Q: How long will it take for an infestation in the home to be cleared completely?
A: It can take 2-3 months, and sometimes longer in cooler rooms, for a well-established indoors flea infestation to completely run its course. The flea preventions help break the life cycle by killing the adult fleas, and some preventions help with the other life cycles as well.
Thank you Merial for helping with this article