Fall is here and in my world it means fleas. According to the weather channel we live in a state that has year-round flea activity, which peaks in August. In my experience we see many more pets with flea infestations in September and October. I’ve always thought it’s because it’s going to get cold and fleas become really active feeding and eating before winter gets here. Of course, I’m just guessing, I just know I will see more pets in the next few weeks covered in fleas than I do the rest of the year. This month I’ll give a basic overview of fleas and how to control them.
It is important to understand the life cycle of the flea, because contrary to popular belief, the adult fleas are not the primary problem, in fact adult fleas represent about 2% of the flea population in the environment. The non-adult flea life stages; eggs, larvae and pupae, live in the environment and represent the majority of flea population. When using a product that only kills adult fleas, there will still be fleas on the pet that are hatching out from the environment. I can’t count how many times we receive phone calls from frantic clients, “I applied product x and I am still seeing fleas on my pet!” This is because the immature fleas are still hatching out and jumping on the pet and the flea product slows down the fleas as they are dying, so they are easier to see. It is also important to keep in mind that the pupal stages of the flea life cycle are protected in a cocoon and can remain in the environment for many months. So just because it is freezing outside doesn’t mean there aren’t fleas inside your home.
When it comes to treating fleas, there are two stages; prevention and removal of infestation- or “Fire Engine” treatment. My favorite way to deal with fleas is to prevent them using an oral medication, Lufenuron, which makes the fleas unable to reproduce after they bite the pet, thus preventing the 98% of the flea population that lives in the environment. This ingredient is in Program® and Sentinel® products. For “Fire Engine” treatment of an active infestation you need a combination of environmental control and medication that kills adult fleas. I’ve never been a fan of flea bombs, fleas don’t live on top of things, so I’m afraid you have to work a little harder and use a hand-held area treatment. I recommend using a product that contains an ingredient that kills adult fleas and an insect growth regulator (IGR) to continue to kill the fleas as they emerge. We use Knockout™ E.S which prevents re-infestations for 7 months. Remember to vacuum before spraying the carpet, the vibration causes the fleas to emerge from the pupal (resistant) stage.
There are many options to treat adult fleas, there are more topical treatments available then I am able to address in the scope of this article. If you are going to use a topical flea medication my best advice is to use what your veterinarian recommends for your specific pet, remember that cheaper isn’t better, and be very careful that the product you use is approved for your pet (especially cat owners.) I prefer an oral medication that contains Spinosad, Comfortis®. This product is given once monthly and has a very fast rate of killing fleas compared to topical preparations. Spinosad reaches maximum effectiveness in 4 hours while most topical products take 12 or more hours. In addition, I like a product that is given orally because it’s not a greasy spot that will get all over everyone and the pet can still be bathed without decreasing the efficacy. Remember that waterproof doesn’t necessarily mean soap proof.
Comfortis® and Sentinel® are prescription-only products, so you need to work with your veterinarian to get these products. I will mention that when it comes to buying flea medication you should always be careful, as I mentioned before, the internet may not be your best source for pet medications. We offer our clients an online pharmacy that has prices comparable to other internet prices of similar quality medications, and the product is shipped directly from the manufacturer. This takes away any concern of quality and support from the manufacturer.
As usual, let me know if you have any questions. I can be reached at [email protected], or visit our website at wildernessvet.com, or you can find us on Facebook.