While fleas are active year round in the Pacific Northwest, they become more noticeable in warmer weather. Fleas are problems as they not only carry tapeworm, which can be transmitted to cats and dogs, but they make our pets itchy and scratchy, sometimes to the extent of causing severe dermatitis.
Impact of Fleas
The most frequent cause of itchy skin, or pruritis, is the pesky flea. Besides being a household nuisance, multiple flea bites can cause an allergic reaction in some pets that leads to flea allergy dermatitis. Allergies form because of an over reactive inflammatory response to an antigen and usually appear as redness, irritation and inflammation of the skin and ears, although the eyes and nasal passages may also become affected. For pets that develop this allergy, the most important thing is to ensure proper flea control both on their body and in their environment.
Just because you don’t see fleas does not mean that your pets don’t have them. Fleas only live on the animals for a few hours to feed, then jump off, live and breed in the environment. Usually evidence of heavy flea infestations is seen on the animal in the form of “flea dirt” or flea excrement. Sometimes, we see the actual fleas (they are fast little buggers!).
Types of Fleas
Fleas are species-specific. So, cat and dog fleas don’t like to eat people! So if you’re getting bit, it’s either because the dog or cat is no longer in the environment and they are hungry or there are so many of them they need more than just your pet(s) to eat.
Flea eggs are tiny, shiny, and oval shaped objects that are laid by an adult flea on your pet. Given their shape, the eggs tend to fall from your pet onto bedding, carpet or where ever your pet spends time. A normal adult female flea will lay around 40 – 60 eggs per day which hatch in larvae in 1 to 20 days.
Larvae go through several stages of molting as they grow and feed on the “flea dirt” that you find where your pet sleeps or rests—including bedding and carpet. After three molts the larvae pupate within “cocoons” enabling the flea to develop. During this period, the pupae can remain dormant for up to a year but often hatch in 7 to 10 days.
Once hatched, adult fleas use vibration and movement find new hosts and will quickly jump to obtain a meal. Fleas feed every 4 to 6 hours biting your pet during each feeding. Fleas tend to live several weeks unless otherwise controlled.
Flea control starts in the environment. If you have a bad flea problem, washing bedding (your bed and your pet’s bed), regular vacuuming and cleaning are a great start. Then your veterinarian can prescribe a monthly flea control for your pets. Most flea control products today have quick kill times and break the flea’s life cycle before they can lay eggs.
We recommend keeping your pet on regular, year round flea control products. Currently there are both oral (for dogs) and topical (for both dogs and cats) formulations. Oral formulations tend to have a faster kill time than the topical formulations, but also require that the pest bites the pet before being effective. Currently oral combinations (Trifexis) guard against fleas, heartworms, and GI parasites. Topical combinations are effective for fleas, heartworms and GI parasites (Revolution) and flea and tick (Frontline). Generic brands are generally not recommended due to an increase in incidence of adverse side effects and lower effectiveness.
Adapted from: kirkwoodanimal.com