Ask the Vet: Treating for Fleas
“My dog and cat both have fleas. How can I treat them?”
In order to control fleas, it is necessary to treat the pet and the environment. There are four stages to the flea life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupae and adult. Adult fleas live on dogs and cats, taking a blood meal, producing flea dirt (flea feces) and laying eggs. One adult female flea can lay about 50 eggs per day. The eggs fall to the ground and hatch into larvae. Larvae live in carpet, cracks in floors and shady areas outdoors. They feed on the flea dirt that falls from the pet onto the ground. The larvae develop into pupae. The pupae are protected inside a cocoon where they develop into adult fleas and wait for the proper environmental conditions, at which time they emerge and seek out a host animal, such as a dog or cat. It takes about two to three weeks for a flea to complete its lifecycle.
Once monthly topical flea products such as Frontline and Revolution, will effectively control fleas on your pet if used properly. These products should be used for at least 3-4 months or longer depending on your pet’s lifestyle and the severity of the flea infestation. All animals in the house should be treated with a product that is appropriate for their weight and age. Cats are very sensitive to insecticides so make sure the product you are using is labeled safe for cats. Check with your veterinarian for appropriate flea control medication for your pet.
If you treated your pet with a topical product such as Frontline or Revolution, and you are still seeing adult fleas on your pet, it is most likely new fleas emerging from the environment and not because the product has failed. Most of the lifecycle of the flea is spent in the environment, so it is important to treat your house, and in some cases, your yard. Vacuum often, especially under beds and furniture. Wash any bedding your pet uses in hot water. A professional exterminator may be needed to treat your house and yard. Often more than one treatment is needed.
Additional prescription medications are available to control various life stages of the flea. Talk to your veterinarian about these different options to see if any are appropriate for your pet.