author Sara Thornton DVM      iCandy RagaMuffins

Depending on where you live in the country, fleas  can be a year round battle or a short term issue. In the Mid-Atlantic where I live, fleas are active about nine months a year, depending on how cold the winter is. However, for house pets, fleas can be a problem throughout every season. There are a number of safe, effective products available these days to control fleas.

To understand why fleas are so successful, one must understand the flea life cycle. There are four stages in the flea life cycle, the pupal, the larval, the adult, and the egg. The flea life cycle may take a couple of weeks or many months, depending on the temperature and the humidity. The pupal stage can survive a very long time and is virtually impossible to kill.

The life cycle starts with the egg, which is laid after the adult has a blood meal. An adult female will lay about 40 eggs a day. These eggs are tiny white “sand” looking things in the pet’s fur. They may drop off the animal’s coat as it moves around the house. The eggs hatch into larva in two to fourteen days. Larvae develop for five to twenty days, then develop into pupae.  This stage is, for the most part, oblivious to vacuums and chemicals. It can live for an extended period of time as well. Eventually, when condition are right, the adult flea develops.

So how does one control the fleas? The best way is to use a good, safe product and apply it prior to ever seeing a flea. Once adult fleas are present, it’s a catch up game. Using a quality product for fleas like Advantage ll, the adult fleas, larva and eggs will be killed. Again, nothing is effective against the pupal stage. All pets must be treated. In some cases, it may be best to call an exterminator to treat the house and yard. The products are effective, but the environment may be so overwhelmed, that the new fleas are hatching out constantly. The biggest mistake I see clients make is that they use a product for a couple of months, don’t see fleas, so stop the product. Then a whole new hatch of fleas develops and they are starting all over.

I do have personal favorites when it comes to products. There are a number of  good ones out there. I always recommend staying away from products made in China. You may find cheaper generic versions of name brand products in places like Walmart. Most are made in China. My best advice is to vacuum frequently, use a good product consistently keep it up for several months past seeing a flea or, even better, year round.