Effective Prevention Of Fleas

What are fleas?
Fleas are small, brown, wingless insects with 3 pairs of powerful legs, allowing them to jump easily from host to host. There are more than 2000 species of flea worldwide but Ctenocephalides felis (cat flea) is the most common species we see and it is found on both dogs and cats.

What is my pet’s risk of exposure?
Fleas are everywhere and depending on the climate, can cause a seasonal or non-seasonal problem for pets and their owners. Any pet that contacts other dogs or cats, frequents grooming salons or kennels or is exercised in areas open to other pets or wildlife should be considered exposed. Prevention is the key to good flea control. As the same fleas affect both dogs and cats, it is important that all pets in the home are on a flea preventive (the pets that go outside can bring them inside to the other pets!)

How are fleas harmful?
Fleas bite within 30 seconds of being on your pet; many pets are allergic to the flea saliva leading to skin irritation and often secondary infection and hair loss. In some pets(especially young ones), a high flea burden can cause anemia. A single female flea can take up to 15 times her body weight in blood over the several weeks of her adult life. In addition, fleas can carry several diseases and act as vectors for one of the most common tapeworms seen in dogs and cats.

What is the flea life cycle?
It is important to understand the flea life cycle as it makes decisions about prevention easier.

The adult female flea lays eggs on the pet after a blood meal that fall off into the environment(your home, your car for example) to continue their development. An adult can live up to 3 weeks, laying approximately 40 eggs per day! Flea eggs are about 50% of the total flea population and hatch in 14 to 28 days. They hatch faster in warm temperatures and higher humidity. Once they hatch they become larvae which feed on organic debris as well as adult flea feces. Flea larvae dislike strong light and move deep into carpet fibres, or under furniture, organic debris, grass, branches, leaves or soil. The larvae eventually become pupae which will become adults in about 5-10 days. The adults do not emerge unless stimulated by physical pressure, carbon dioxide or heat. (Pre-emerged adult fleas can survive in the cocoon for up to 9 months!) Once they emerge, they can only exist for a few days unless they are able to feed.

How do I prevent fleas on my pet and in the environment?
Effective topical and oral flea preventives are available for use in both dogs and cats. The Markham Veterinary Clinic (MVC) team can discuss which product is best for your pet and your family. Some of these products have the added benefit of preventing heartworm and ticks as well. Some flea preventives are pesticides; however, the products preferred by the MVC veterinarians are insect growth regulators(IGR) and therefore safer for use when children are in the home. These drugs act on the egg, larvae and adult life stages providing effective flea control for the environment if used monthly.

Unfortunately, no product exists which can repel fleas in the first place or that can kill the pupae in their protective cocoons.

Prevention of fleas outside

Restrict your pet from trouble spots. Avoid crawl spaces, areas under decks and consider restricting roaming in woods and fields (This same advice is also important in the prevention of ticks). Areas that cannot be avoided by your pet should be cleaned of organic debris regularly.

Please call Markham Veterinary Clinic today with any questions you might have regarding flea prevention!