This year has been a particular challenge and many people are struggling with fleas, frustrated with the different products that they are using.
Here’s the deal….
They are pesky. No matter what you use, nothing is going to work as soon as you use it. There is no magic product. Some of you are primarily interested in avoiding chemicals on your pets. For you guys, its gonna be along road. Others don’t care what they have to use, they just want the fleas gone.
You are going to be frustrated too.
Give me a few minutes with the flea life cycle and you’ll understand why.
Here are the rules of the game of fleas…..
Female fleas only lay eggs after taking a blood meal.
After a meal, they lay 30-36 eggs/day.
Those eggs are often laid on the pet, but can easily fall off. The more frequented an area is, the more eggs are in it.
In a lifetime, a female flea can lay over 500 eggs.
So these little eggs take 2 days to 2 weeks to hatch, depending on conditions. If you are an egg, perfect conditions are warm (greater than 70 degrees) and humid (greater than 75% humidity).
The egg hatches into a larva, this looks like a teeny tiny worm.
The larvae are blind and like dark places. They eat just about anything. In 1 – 2 weeks they spin a cocoon.
This stage is called the pupa. Multiple ones are called pupae.
That will be on the test I send you guys in a few days.
If the conditions are right (warm, humid again) then the pupa will hatch into an adult in 1-2 weeks. However, the pupa can sit there in the environment for up to 2 years.
One of the rules of fleas is there is nothing you can do to kill the pupal stage.
OK, maybe a nuclear bomb. Not sure about that.
The adult hatches, jumps on a dog, cat or rarely human and gets a blood meal, then lays 30-36 eggs a day and here we go again.
If you look at an infested environment, 50% of the population will be in the egg form, 35% in the larval form, 10% pupae, and 5% adults.
So those 3 adults you picked off your dog and swore because the Frontline/Advantix/Advantage/PetGuard/Hartz/Vectra 3D didn’t work….they are the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Also, two more bits of bad news….
If you think you got fleas last week you are probably wrong. If your pet has fleas, it is more likely that the process started more than a month ago. Remember that nice, humid weather??
Other bad news…there have to be 3-5,000 fleas in the environment before they are jumping on humans. Now, some of you are thinking…but fleas love me. I know when there is ONE in my house.
I’m going to give you partial credit on that because some people are more sensitive than others, as are some dogs and cats. Flea saliva sensitivity is an allergic reaction and in dogs anyway is usually manifested by intense itchiness and a hair loss pattern over the top of the tail head.
You are probably by now one step ahead of me in planning out your attack. September is cold and the fleas are literally coming inside where it is warmer and more humid (see the pattern?).
To be successful in eradicating fleas you have to control the eggs, larvae and pupae in the environment and prevent the female flea from getting a blood meal and starting the whole thing all over.
Mark’s Gems for Flea control.
1) Use an insect growth regulator (IGR) This is a chemical, usually of minimal toxicity to mammals, that kills the eggs and larvae. You can get it on the topicals (Frontline Plus and Advantix 2) but if you are starting now, you are going to have to address the environment because those pesky little eggs have been dropping off all over the place, and are in large numbers where your pet spends most of his/her time.
Check for IGR’s like Pyriproxyfen or methoprene. To get a good coating of this stuff everywhere you are going to have to spray or flea bomb.
2) Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum–and then toss your bag out of your house and into the house of your biggest enemy. .. or if you are using a bagless system, dump it at their house and clean it with hot soapy water.
You do not have to have carpets to vacuum. Those eggs gotta go somewhere. Suck them up and get them out of your house.
3) Use a topical agent that is good. Don’t use the Hartz stuff at Walmart. Now, there is a new generic product that has fipronil that is the active ingredient in Frontline available in multiple forms. Many people have asked me what I think about it…fipronil went off patent and now other companies can make it into a topical flea agent. It should be the same stuff, but the company that makes Frontline says that theirs also has a special chemical that distributes it better. I don’t know what to say to that. I’m not certain enough to sell the generic stuff this year anyway, because if it doesn’t work, you guys won’t trust me anymore…and I don’t want that.
I have heard some complaints, but then again I’ve heard complaints about Frontline. This last year when I went to the huge vet conference, a flea specialist (who didn’t work for Merial) presented data that said that Frontline still works great.
As for the generic, if you have a flea problem, I wouldn’t chance it. If you don’t have a flea problem, want to avoid it and the savings helps, by all means try it and report back to me please.
Other things that have come across my desk and my brief opinions in regards to flea control….
Borax in the environment–probably helpful to kill the larvae and eggs
Garlic and Brewers yeast–maybe for prevention (no studies support this, but I’ve heard alot of people swear by it…remember though, it doesn’t help an environmental problem
Dehumidifier–Good idea, eggs require 70-75% humidity to hatch
Diatomaceous earth–probably good idea to aid in environmental control. Be careful though, this stuff can hurt you if you breathe it in.
Flea Dip–very 70’s. Toxic stuff on the dog (not cats) that only kills the adults, but is toxic to the dog at higher doses. This is old technology and not good
Flea combing multiple times a day–for the obsessive compulsive client–not bad for prevention, remember that 5% of flea life cycle is in adult phase, and female flea can lay 500 eggs in her lifetime…good thing you are obsessive compulsive. You are going to need it if this is your plan.
I’ve got one more bad bit of information, then I will give you a synopsis of what action steps to take if you are seeing fleas or itching around the tailhead in your pet.
Remember the pupa? Nothing short of a nuclear bomb kills it? 10% of the life cycle? Can wait for 2 years?
You folks that got nailed by the flea bug this year are going to need to start topicals NEXT year when you get 7 days of 70 degree weather and 70% humidity. That, along with CO2 emissions and vibrations will tell the pupae to break open and deliver a hungry flea.
OK, so my recommendations for flea control
1) Put on effective topical with IGR
2) Clean bedding in hot water
3) Vacuum vacuum vacuum, then dump the bag on someone you hate
4) Spray or bomb the environment with a product that has an IGR (methoprene most commonly)
You aren’t done yet. Repeat the topical at least once in a month. Do very regular vacuuming, and repeat the spray in 2 weeks if you have a significant problem.
If you are reading this and your pet is flea and itch free…
Be careful, I think I see your neighbor coming over with a vacuum bag.