Preventing and Treating Flea Infestations: A Comprehensive Guide

Fleas are small, dark brown insects found on the skin of your pet. Dogs and cats can become infested by spending time with other affected animals or simply by visiting an infested environment. Fleas have amazing jumping abilities. They can jump 8 inches high and 12 inches laterally—right onto your pet, as your pet passes by.

Flea

Fleas are not always easy to find on the skin. While they can live anywhere on your pet’s body, fleas are more commonly seen on the rump, lower back, and groin area. Even a few fleas—as little as one or two—can make pets incredibly itchy. The most common sign of a flea infestation is excessive chewing and biting at the skin along with hair loss on the rump.

How Fleas Can Harm Your Pet

In animals that are sensitive to the flea saliva, a single bite may cause an allergic reaction. The intense itching that occurs often results in a condition called flea allergy dermatitis which is inflammation (and sometimes infection) that develops as the skin is traumatized. If your pet has had fleas for a prolonged period of time, the inflammation can result in a skin infection that looks like red bumps or pustules on the skin.

Other conditions associated with flea infestations include:

  • Anemia (blood loss from chronic feeding by the fleas). Puppies and kittens are more susceptible to life-threatening anemia. Some signs of flea anemia are pale gums, decreased energy, and low body temperature.
  • Tapeworms (small, white, rice-sized parasites found on the surface of the stool or on the hind end of your pet).
  • Infectious organisms such as bartonella and mycoplasma.

Treatment and Prevention

There are many effective products available to control fleas, but what is most important is that you treat all your pets. If even one pet is left untreated, a flea infestation won’t be eliminated.

It is imperative that you treat for at least three consecutive months, so that fleas are killed in all life cycles, from eggs to adults. If there is a break in treatment, the fleas will multiply rapidly (instead of getting rid of the infestation) and resistance to the flea product that you are currently using may develop.

Consistency with flea treatment cannot be over emphasized. Continue to treat all of your pets and the environment together in order to have the most success.

Types of Flea Control Products

  • Kill adult fleas. Adulticides are the best choice for getting an existing infestation under control and are necessary for pets that are allergic to the fleas. Targeting the adult fleas prevents the flea bites and eliminates the allergic reaction.

  • Prevent the flea eggs from hatching, but do not kill adult fleas. IGRs are best used for prevention of flea infestations and in combination with an adulticide for pets that already have a flea problem.

    Utilizing the combination of adulticides and IGRs helps to eliminate the entire flea life cycle to remove them from the environment.

Call Us for Specific Recommendations

Call Dupont Veterinary Clinic at (260) 637-7676 for more information on which flea product would be best in your situation.

Warning

Traditional, over-the-counter sprays containing pyrethrins are effective adulticides, but must be used with caution. In addition, they can be toxic to cats resulting in profound neurologic side effects, such as severe tremors. Be sure to treat cats with a feline approved product (Revolution or Cheristin), as cats can easily become ill with the use of an inappropriate product.

The following is a list of our most highly recommended flea products.

  • Trifexis

    • Extremely effective oral flea product
    • Chewable tablets last for one month
    • Kills fleas before they can lay eggs
    • No mess and won’t wash off
    • Prevents heartworm disease, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms

    Nexgard

    • Extremely effective oral product
    • Chewable tablets last for one month
    • Kills both fleas and ticks
    • No mess and won’t wash off

    Bravecto

    • Extremely effective oral product
    • Chewable tablet lasts for 12 weeks
    • Kills both fleas and ticks
    • No mess and won’t wash off

    Vectra 3D

    • Monthly topical product
    • Kills fleas, ticks, lice and some mites – repels mosquitoes and biting flies
    • No resistance as with some older topical products
    • Easy to apply
  • Revolution

    • Monthly topical product
    • Effective against fleas, heartworms, ear mites, roundworms, and hookworms
    • Highest recommended flea product for cats

    Cheristin

    • Topical monthly product
    • Kills fleas

Ridding Your Home of Fleas

Cute Siberian Husky Puppy Scratching

Once you have the appropriate flea treatment for your pet, it is important to treat the environment. We recommend that you wash any rugs and bedding. Vacuum floors and carpets thoroughly. On hard surfaces such as wood and tile, concentrate on areas near the baseboards, since flea eggs tend to collect in those spaces.

After cleaning the environment, you will need to treat your house with a product that contains both an adulticide and an IGR for more serious infestations.

    • Administer Trifexis, Nexgard, Bravecto or Vectra 3D to all dogs as directed (and Revolution on all cats)
    • Continue using these products for three consecutive months. This ensures time for all eggs and immature fleas to have hatched out of the environment, thereby not re-infesting your pets.
    • Administer Trifexis, Nexgard, Bravecto or Vectra 3D to all dogs as directed (again, using Revolution on all cats)
    • Continue using these products for three consecutive months
    • Vacuum you home thoroughly (throw bag away after vacuuming)
    • Wash bedding materials−rugs or anywhere your pet lays and sleeps−in hot soapy water
    • Use Knockout aerosol premise spray for your home. This product has an effective adult insecticide as well as an insect growth inhibitor that safely kills eggs and larvae. Repeat in 3 to 4 weeks. One can treats about 2,100 sq. ft. Contact us for more information about applying this effective, safe product.

Again, contact us to learn about how to effectively and safely prevent or treat fleas. We will be happy to answer your questions and get your dog or cat on the road to feeling good.

Flea Life Cycle

Flea Eggs

  • Small (0.5mm), oval, and pearly white
  • Deposited on the animal and easily fall off into the environment within a few hours

Larvae

  • Maggot-like and approximately 0.5cm long
  • Feed on organic debris, flea eggshells, and other flea larvae
  • Develop in undisturbed, protected areas such as carpets, under furniture, and along baseboards indoors and outdoors in cool, shady areas where pets rest

Pupae

  • White cocoons (0.5 cm long) that can be found in soil, in carpets, under furniture, and on animal bedding
  • May stay in the cocoon stage for up to 30 weeks until there is stimulus to cause them to hatch
  • Mechanical pressure (walking in the environment), carbon dioxide from human or animal presence, and increased temperatures can stimulate adult flea emergence

Adult

  • Adults begin feeding immediately on the host’s blood
  • Blood excreted by the adult flea dries into reddish-brown pellets on the skin (flea dirt)
  • Adults begin producing eggs within 20-24 hours of females taking their first blood meal
  • Females can lay 40-50 eggs per day
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