Fleas are the most common external parasite of companion animals and flea allergy dermatitis is the most common skin disease of dogs and cats! Flea control has always been a challenge for veterinarians and pet owners because the adult fleas cause the clinical signs, yet the majority of the flea population (eggs, larvae and pupae) are to be found off the pet in and around the home. Because of this, the ideal flea control program addresses various stages of the flea life cycle, not only the adult fleas on the pet. In order to help you to select the most appropriate products to achieve a flea-free existence for an allergic pet, we will start by telling you about the life cycle of the flea.
The Life Cycle of the Flea
Flea Control Recommendations
Fleas have 4 stages to their life cycle: adults (5%), eggs (50%), larvae (30%), and pupae (15%). Adults are the only part of the cycle that live on the pet, and make up only 5% of the population! Adult fleas can hibernate up to 2 months without a meal. Once an adult flea gets on the animal, it will feed as soon as possible. Within 30 minutes of feeding, the female flea begins to lay eggs. Eggs are designed to fall off the pet.
They fall into the environment, then within 2 days to 2 weeks hatch into larvae. Larvae live in the carpet and furniture and eat digested flea blood from adult fleas. They take a week to several months to develop. Pupae mature in a cocoon and NO flea products will kill them. They can develop and emerge as adult fleas in as few as 5 days, or as much as 1 year. They emerge in response to vibration, pressure, heat, noise, or carbon dioxide put off by a mammal.
As you can see, the flea life cycle can be very short (as short as 16 days!), or very long (over a year). This is why a balanced year-round flea preventative program is essential. Some animals can have large amounts of fleas with very few signs. Other animals experience extreme pruritis (itchiness) with only one or two flea bites. These animals are flea allergic, which is the most common type of skin allergy in cats & dogs. For the flea allergic animal 100% flea control is required. Ideally, this means a treatment which will kill the fleas before they can get a chance to bite the animal.
Previously, flea treatments had very little longevity, and poor efficacy. Most treat only the adult stage of the flea, and therefore miss 95% of the problem! Many of them also have dangerous side affects that can harm or even kill animals. Unfortunately, these older products make up most treatments you can buy at the store. We never recommend store-bought flea control. We have seen dogs with the hair & skin on their back melted off from contact with the medication. We have seen animals die from reactions. Flea collars are usually an ineffective method of flea control. In general, over the counter flea collars do a moderate job of keeping fleas off the animal’s neck, and that is about all. There are a few newer collars for ticks and fleas that are prescription and are effective.
We recommend flea control YEAR-ROUND. This is because of the flea life cycle; fleas can remain dormant in the environment for over a year. Because of the life cycle, it generally takes 3-4 months minimum to get an infestation under control. One month of treatment will rarely kill all stages, and stopping after just a few months is asking for an even bigger infestation. In addition it is important to treat the whole environment and all pets in the household, especially in cases of large infestations.
- House treatment: Vacuum your house – move all your furniture and vacuum in and under your furniture. Throw out the vacuum bag and have a pest company spray or use a commercially available flea bomb in the house (follow directions for safe use).
- Yard: Pest Control Treatment of the yard
|Product||Active Ingredient||Type||Flea Kill||Other Protection||Notes|
|Sentinel (Program is flea control without heartworm or other parasite control)||Lufeneron||Monthly Pill||Sterilizes adult fleas||Heartworm, intestinal parasites||Great affordable heartworm/flea control. Use in combination if large active infestation|
|Nexguard||Afoxolaner||Monthly Pill||12-24 hrs||Ticks, demodex||Dogs only|
|Simperica||Suralaner||Monthly Pill||12-24 hrs||Ticks, demodex||Dogs only|
|Bravecto||Fluralaner||Every 12 wk pill||4-12 hrs||Ticks, demodex, sarcoptes||Dogs only for pill, cats liquid|
|Vectra 3D||Pyriproxyfen||Monthly Spot-on||6 hrs||3D – repels ticks and mosquitos||3D is for dogs only|
|Revolution Plus||Selamectin & Suralaner||Monthly Spot-on||12-24 hours||Heartworm (poor for dogs), intestinal parasites, ear mites, ticks||We recommend Revolution only for cats.|
|Capstar||Nitenpyram||Pill – as needed||Starts killing fleas within 30 minutes||None||Good quick kill of adult fleas. Can be used daily, but doesn’t last.|
|Trifexis (Comfortis is flea control without heartworm or other parasite control)||Spinosad||Monthly Pill||Starts killing fleas within 30 minutes||Heartworm, intestinal parasites||Quick, effective, long lasting, and great option for households that don’t want to use spot-ons. Can cause vomiting the first couple months of use|