The warmer weather provides great breeding conditions for fleas. This is why some pets are experiencing problems with fleas, despite receiving the same treatments as were used through the Winter. Once you have allowed the environment to be contaminated with flea eggs, these will continue to develop into flea larvae and then pupae and finally newly hatched fleas to jump on your pet.
Have you ever noticed the tiny white eggs left behind where your pet lays? These are the flea eggs. The black curved debris left behind is the waste from the fleas, in essence digested blood!
If you see tiny fleas through your pets coat these are newly hatched. They have not fed yet to become big fat fleas! It suggests your environment is contaminated. They are often referred to as “grass fleas” but this is incorrect. They are the normal cat and dog fleas hatching out of the environment in a millisecond as their next meal comes along.
The flea lifecycle can be completed in several weeks in warm, humid weather and flea populations can explode. Owners of pets can feel frustrated as they spend money on good products but still see fleas.
Common reasons for apparent treatment failure include:
*Not treating all the pets in the household
*Not continuing treatment through the Winter and only starting flea control once the problem is well established
*An environment that has many eggs and pupae that continue to re-infect the pets
*Untreated animals coming to visit
*Visiting infected premises
*Resistance to the insecticides?
Understanding the flea life cycle can help us control the problems. What you see on the pet is only a small proportion of the flea population. What is in the environment is the bulk of the problem. Flea larvae feed on debris in the environment and in particular do well down in the carpets. Simple vacuuming of carpets and even floorboards or concrete can help “clean” the environment of fleas. The flea larvae do not survive in the full sun so concentrate on cleaning the sheltered areas where the animals like to lay such as verandahs, under the house, garden beds, pet bedding etc. This is where the fleas drop eggs that develop to larvae and pupae to eventually hatch out and jump back onto the pets.
Spraying the environment with insecticides or better still flea sprays or bombs that contain an insect growth regulator to stop hatching can be of great benefit.
Adulticides are chemicals to kill the adult fleas on the pet. Many of the modern ones such as Advantage, Revolution and Frontline are quite safe. Comfortis is a new monthly tablet with a quick knock down effect. Permethrins such as in permoxin can be effective but are not to be used on cats. In fact we regularly see cats poisoned and die from some of the products available in the supermarkets. In addition Advantix should not be used on cats. Seeking advice from our Vets and experienced nurses is the ideal way to overcome problems and get the best value for money. Frequency of application, shampooing and choice of product vary in every case so getting the best advice can save you money in the long run.
There is one more very useful tool for flea control and that is the use of a drug called lufenuron. It is unique in its mode of action and extremely safe and effective. It is one of the ingredients in Sentinel and Program. It is “birth control for fleas” and works by sterilizing flea eggs. The eggs will not hatch and the cycle is broken. All animals in the household should be on either Sentinel or Program. It cannot immediately “clean up” a heavily infected environment but in time there should never be a flea problem. It does not kill adult fleas but a “hitchhiker flea” picked up on your pets travels can be easily controlled as they will never breed at your place. Capstar is a tablet which safely and effectively kills the fleas on the pet for about 24 hours. Used alone it is not an effective method of flea control but can be useful after a visit to the park.
For a pet that has been diagnosed as Flea Allergic, it is critical to keep the fleas off. One bite and injection of flea saliva into an allergic pet can leave them itchy weeks later, even when the flea has gone! Often multiple strategies are employed and this is best discussed with the Vet to suit your situation.