A Jump on Flea Season
Never underestimate the impact fleas can have on your life. Flea season isn't here yet, but don't feel relaxed about that. Now is the time to plan your attack. If you don't, by September your home might feel like it's under siege.
A Flea's Life
From egg until death, a flea's life lasts anywhere from two weeks to eight months. It all depends on temperature, humidity, availability of food, etc.
- In one day, one flea can bite your cat or dog 400 times.
- After a feeding, a female flea typically lays 15 to 20 eggs.
- Eggs either stay on the animal or drop off onto furniture, cracks in the floor, the carpet….pretty much all over the house.
- Eggs hatch in two days to two weeks.
- Different types of fleas feed on different types of animals. Cat fleas don't feed on dogs, for example.
- The best temperature for fleas is 70 to 85 degrees F. They like humidity too-70 percent is optimal for them.
Fleas can be more than a nuisance for your pets. They can cause bad skin reactions, or flea allergy dermatitis, tapeworms (when a pet eats a flea), secondary skin problems and in less common cases, anemia.
Getting Rid of Fleas: The Old Way
Pet owners used to have a harder time fighting fleas. There was an endless cycle of evacuating all people and pets from the house to "bomb" the place with insecticide sprays and, at the same time, sending the pets to be "dipped." Frequent vacuuming was also helpful in sucking up fleas and eggs from carpets, furniture and pet bedding. Vacuum cleaner bags then had to be thrown away instantly, because fleas could easily escape.
Flea and tick collars were often part of the scenario, but these irritated some pets. Other pets always managed to get the things off somehow.
These methods are still available, and people still use them, but you have a good chance of avoiding them if you use some of the newer products before fleas get the upper hand.
The New, Improved Way
More effective, less aggravating flea treatments have become available in the past five years or so. You have to get these products from your veterinarian; they're not sold in stores. Veterinarians can give you guidance on whether the product is right depending on what type of pet you have, its age, whether it is pregnant, has any illnesses, etc. Commercial names you may have heard include Program, Frontline Top Spot, Proban, Pro-Spot and Advantage. It really is important to use the products only the way your vet recommends. Proban, for example, is not safe for cats, greyhounds, or sick or pregnant animals.
Most of these products come in tablet or liquid form. Program, maybe the most well known, works by preventing flea eggs and larvae from developing. It has no effect on the adult flea, so it may take a few weeks to see results. Frequent vacuuming during this time can help to get rid of the adult fleas. Once the adult fleas have died, your animal should experience relief. Pets need to take the tablet or liquid once a month.
Frontline Top Spot kills adult fleas for up to three months on dogs and one month on cats. It comes in a pre-measured pipette. You apply the dose to a spot between the pet's shoulder blades. Keep in mind that the more easygoing pets are probably better candidates for this particular product. A high-strung cat isn't going to sit nicely while you part its fur and slowly drip something wet onto its skin.
If you use these new types of products before flea season, chances are excellent that you'll be able to avoid the mess and inconvenience of flea bombs, pet dipping and endless scratching.
American Academy of Pediatrics; U.S. Food and Drug Administration Consumer Magazine, July-August 2001.