Veterinarians are reporting record numbers of flea problems. What can be done to protect your pet and family?
Heavy rainfall this spring and last year’s hurricanes in Florida and along the entire east coast have caused the ground to be saturated with moisture — perfect conditions for a record infestation of fleas. Pet owners nationwide are flooding into their veterinary clinics asking for help to control the fleas that are making their pets’ lives miserable. Many owners have been caught by surprise this year and are simply not providing adequate protection for their pets.
“We are already being overwhelmed by pet owners who are seeing record numbers of fleas on their pets, in their homes and even on themselves,” says Dr. Wes Borgman, owner of Seminole Animal Hospital in Sanford Florida, who also writes the pet column for a local newspaper. “I knew with the hurricanes we had last year we would see an increase in the flea problem this year, but I had no idea it would be this bad.”
Once a flea infestation gets established in your home environment, it’s tough to bring under control because the adult fleas produce thousands of offspring. The adult fleas you see on your pet are only 5% of the total flea problem. The other 95% of flea life cycle include tiny eggs, larvae and pupae (or cocoons) which live and hatch in your home or yard. These life cycle stages can be found anywhere the pet has been and are so small that they are difficult to see. Most surprisingly they can survive up to 325 days in your home environment. Adult fleas can also survive over the winter on your pet or on wildlife.
“The fact that adult fleas can live over the winter on pets allows the pupae to emerge quickly when weather conditions are right and even after all the adults have been killed on your pet or in your home. These factors make pet owners think their flea control products have failed them.” Dr. Borgman says.
Pet owners should know some basic facts about fleas:
One flea can produce 2,000 eggs in its lifetime.
95% of flea life stages are present in the environment rather than on the pet. These environmental stages can survive up to 365 days.
Fleas can reproduce year-round in southern climates.
While pets can become re-infested from sources other than the home, the majority of control requires a focus on what is happening at home.
Flea control products should be used at the correct dosage and in many cases year-round.
Fleas are more than a simple nuisance; they can cause disease in both people and pets.
Control requires killing the adult fleas, and the other life cycle stages you can’t see.
Your veterinarian is best suited to help you control fleas on your pets and in your environment.
Dr. Borgman warns pet owners about wanting to see a “quick fix” when it comes to flea control – especially in humid climates; “It usually takes several doses of flea control to break the flea life cycle. This is because fleas in the insecticide-resistant cocoon stage may hatch out after the 1st dose of flea control has worn off, making it look like your flea control product is not working. In cooler or dryer environments the flea life cycle may last almost a year.”
Now for the good news – effective flea control is available. Unlike years ago when flea control was cumbersome, expensive and rarely effective, products found at your veterinary office today can provide a very high level of effectiveness. Two advances in technology have made this possible: 1) Safe products that continue to work on the pet for a full 30 days, actively killing the adult fleas and 2) Insect Growth Regulators that kill the juvenile stages of the life cycle and provide highly effective control at this crucial part of the flea’s development.
Using a combination of these two products is the key. Veterinarians call this Integrated Flea Control but pet owners call it a very effective way to stop the problem. Integrated Flea Control kills adult fleas and stops the immature life cycle stages from developing into adults. This eliminates flea infestations quickly and more completely.
Pet owners should remember that the appearance of adult fleas on a treated pet may mean they are simply not treating all the life stages or there is tremendous “pressure” from intense flea populations. Be sure to treat all the pets in your household every month to control and prevent re-infestation. Other key points where failure can occur is incorrect application or using a product that washes off. Your veterinarian has extensive training and the proper products to help you solve this yearly problem.
Especially in the face of a record year for flea infestation, now is the time to act. You can watch an interesting video about fleas by visiting www.VetNewsNet.com.