Why only treating your pet isn’t enough to get rid of a flea infestation

At the first sign of fleas, most pet parents are quick to treat the dog or cat, but that may not be enough to solve the flea problem. It’s true that adult fleas spend most of their time on their preferred host, your pet. However, only about 5% of the flea’s life cycle is spent as an adult flea on your pet and worse, for every adult flea you see, you can be sure there are at least 100 more fleas in various stages of development in your home. To really get control of a flea problem, you need to address the entire flea population, not just the adult fleas you see on your pet.

To understand the problem, let’s first look at the flea life cycle. An adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day on your dog or cat. But the eggs don’t stay on your pet; they roll off your pet infesting your home anywhere and everywhere your pet travels, especially pet bedding, carpets and furniture. At any given time, flea eggs make up about 50% of the flea population. Flea eggs are about the size of a grain of salt.

The flea eggs hatch within about two weeks into small worm-like creatures called larvae. Approximately 30% of the flea population consists of fleas in the larval stage. Unlike adult fleas which feed on your pet’s blood, flea larvae feed primarily on the feces of the adult fleas.

Eventually, the flea larvae develop into pupae, which comprise about 15% of the flea population. While fleas, flea eggs and flea larvae can be treated with insecticides, flea pupae are resistant to treatment while they are encased inside the protective cocoon. The fleas may remain dormant in the pupal stage for many months, until they detect the favorable conditions which stimulate them to emerge. You must wait until the pupae hatch before they can be successfully treated, or try to physically remove as many as possible by thorough vacuuming.

You can see that if you only treat the adult fleas on your pet, the eggs, larvae and pupae in your home will simply hatch and re-infest your pet. Steps to take:

- Treat all dogs and cats in your home once a month.  A product containing an insect growth regulator (IGR) such as Frontline Plus will treat the adult fleas, as well as any flea eggs and flea larvae on your pet.

- Wash anything that can be washed such as pet bedding, blankets, throws, etc. If your pet sleeps on your bed, you will need to wash your own bedding also.

- Vacuum what cannot be washed like carpets, upholstered furniture, hard flooring. Don’t miss crevices such as around baseboards and kitchen cabinets and under furniture. Continue to vacuum daily if possible.

- Use a room fogger or spray in your home, again using a product that treats all stages of the flea life cycle. Be sure to follow directions exactly, and keep pets and people out until the spray is completely dried.

-Retreat your home in 2-3 weeks to catch the newly-hatched adult fleas that were previously in the pupal stage.

- Don’t forget to treat your yard with a yard spray.

It might seem difficult but if you’re persistent, you can win the war on fleas if you address the entire flea problem, and not just the fleas you can see on your pet. It is always easier to prevent than to eradicate a flea infestation, so be sure to continue to treat your pets for fleas on a regular, monthly schedule and not just when you actually see fleas.

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