Why Fleas Surge in the FallThe "dog days" of summer are almost behind us, but that doesn't mean your pets can get by without flea protection. In fact, in most areas, fall is the worst season for fleas. Dr. Michael Dryden, professor of Veterinary Parasitology in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Manhattan, calls it "the fall flea surge."
Dryden discovered that the number of fleas on animals in the fall were 70 percent higher than in the spring! He theorized that the "flea surge" occurs because in the fall there is generally an increase in precipitation and the temperatures stay around 70 degrees. Fleas thrive in these conditions. In fact, in the fall, pet owners tend to believe that their flea prevention program isn't working because the fleas are so abundant!
Understanding FleasFleas reproduce very efficiently. They start feeding on the blood of your pet within fifteen minutes upon their arrival and within 24 hours, they begin to breed. Each female flea will lay approximately 28 to 50 eggs per day.
The eggs are sticky at first but after a short time, they dry and fall off your pet into the environment and can hatch within two to five days. While it's possible to bring a flea into our environment on our clothing, unprotected pets are most likely the ones that deliver them—several at a time. "This is another reminder that cats that go outdoors at all also require protection," Dryden notes.
It is also important to remember in order to effectively eliminate fleas, you must treat the environment as well as the pet. This includes the carpet, furniture, beds and yards. Dryden also notes that home infestations occurring in the fall may exceed those in spring. Flea eggs that have fallen off the pet eventually hatch into larvae. Since larvae do not like light, they burrow down into the carpet or into fabric fibers where they remain for the next seven to 14 days, preparing to become pupae.
Pupae are protected by a cocoon that the larvae spin, and they remain dormant until the conditions are right for the adult flea to emerge. The hatch can be stimulated by vibration such as vacuuming, walking or running, changes in light, carbon dioxide or the ideal temperature. Temperatures above 85 degrees encourage the dormant state, but when the temperature hovers around 70 degrees, fleas will begin hatching in very large numbers. They can live in a warm house all year round.
In the fall, pets begin getting their winter coats making them ideal homes for fleas to feed and breed. The thicker coat also makes it more difficult to groom fleas off.
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Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.
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