Hunting fleas is difficult, but it can be impossible if you do not know how they live. The adult female is simply an egg-laying machine, laying 50 to 100 eggs a day! Before they die, females can lay several thousand eggs, which fall off the pet into the environment.
What is the Life Cycle of a Flea
For every one adult flea seen on your pet, the environment around your pet has 50 eggs and 45 larvae and pupae! Eggs hatch in less than a week, and these larvae will feed on flea dirt and debris. Larvae spin a cocoon before entering the pupae stage, where they wait.
Inside the cocoon, the pupae are protected from insecticide and toxins. They’re located out of the way, under chairs or other surfaces where they are protected from sunlight. Plus, they anchor to the carpet, grass or kennel, making mechanical vacuuming useless. If needed, they can stay in the pupae stage for a year. Pupae are stimulated to “hatch” by vibrations in the area or carbon dioxide. Timing allows adults to emerge when they have the best chance of finding a mammal to feed on.
Adults emerge hungry, and they will feed and mate as soon as they find a host. Fleas feed several times a day for up to four hours each time, which they can do because their saliva has a protein that prevents the blood from clotting. This saliva protein is also the reason for flea allergies, which causes the pet to scratch and tear at their skin. Adult fleas pass pepper-looking feces called flea dirt, which is digested blood. Flea dirt is a rich food for the larvae in the environment, and it will turn red on a white paper towel if you wet it.
How to Find Fleas
So how do you find fleas in your house and get rid of them? Treatment failure commonly occurs in the environment. If you only treat the adults on your dogs and not the environment, 95 percent of the fleas will go untouched. Adults are killed and easily replaced with the remaining pupae. That means it’s important to set a game plan for treating and preventing fleas.
How to Get Rid of Fleas in House
Vacuum the areas that are not hosed down, especially under tables, chairs and shelving, then dispose of the vacuumed contents in a plastic bag. This removes the flea adults and eggs in the area. Wash kennels, scrub the inside runs and clean under everything. Spray the environment with an insecticide that contains an IGR (Insect Growth Regulator), which is the only way to get rid of pupae. The IGR is a flea hormone that prevents the pupae from maturing, and they die in the cocoon. This is critical – make sure you spray under furniture, shelving and whelping boxes. Most products today are safe for your dogs, but as a precaution, let them dry before putting your dog back in the environment. This only takes a few minutes.
How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs and Cats
- The four new oral tick and flea control products in the isoxazoline drug class. These include Bravecto, Credelio, Nexgard and Simparica. These products give nose to tail protection and will start killing fleas within 4 hours of administration.
- Nexgard, Simparica, Simparica Trio, and Credelio as well as puppy Bravecto are given orally every 30 days. Bravecto Adult is given orally every 12 weeks for optimal parasite control. For control of the Lone Star Tick, Bravecto should be administered every 8 weeks.
- Only Bravecto is labeled as safe for use in breeding dogs. Remember, a breeding dog is any dog intended to be including in your future breeding plans.
- The topical flea/tick control products can be paired with the oral preventives, sprays, shampoos and collars in times or areas of heavy tick infestations.
For the fastest way to remove fleas from dogs or cats, bathe or spray the dog or cat with a flea spray or shampoo and treat the pet with a monthly product to prevent re-infestation. You will not be able to get all the pupae the first time, but the next month’s application will take care of the new adults. Make sure you re-apply the treatment each month for at least three months until the problem is under control.
Be careful when bringing a new dog in because you don’t know its flea status. As a precaution, it’s a good idea to spray them with a pyrethrin spray or administer Capstar or an oral flea preventative such as Bravecto. Though these sprays only last 24 hours, they are safe and effective to give you extra insurance against fleas.
The most likely cause of flea treatment failure is failure to treat all the contact animals in your dog’s environment.
How Do You Kill Fleas in the Environment
When it comes to killing fleas in the environment, spray the exercise yard with an insecticide. When fighting flea issues, sprays with Permethrin is effective. Spray up on the building and kennel with the dogs locked inside. Wildlife, rabbits, squirrels and feral cats are a big source of fleas in your area so building a barrier around your kennel in the spring and fall is important.
Flea Protection for Dogs and Cats
Preventing fleas before they become a problem is always best. But knowing which flea protection product to choose for your pet can be overwhelming. Remember never put dog flea medicine on a cat. The Revival Flea & Tick Finder is an easy tool to help find the best flea preventative for dogs or cats!
If you need additional help with getting rid of fleas, call us at 800.786.4751.
Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services.
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.