Creature Care – Flee the Fleas!

Your pet may be at risk of fleas this fall and winter

by Dr. John Weiner – October 11, 2016

Yes, summer is over and the autumn months are upon us, so lets talk ‘fleas’. The fall months of the year are especially important months for fleas since this is time when all of the millions of flea eggs laid both inside and outside during this past summer are hatching out to infest our dogs, our cats, and our homes.

Fleas are more then just a nuisance as they bite our pets and yes sometimes even us people. These common insect pests also carry and cause disease. Allergic reactions causing hair loss and more serious skin infections start with the saliva of a fleas that bites the animal. Fleas are also responsible for spreading ‘tapeworms’, bacterial infections that can affect the blood, liver, and lungs of our dogs and cats. Deadly diseases like bubonic plague are still a threat thanks to the flea.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends year-round flea and tick medication for all of our domestic dogs and cats. To understand why, consider these key points of the flea life-cycle.

Adult Fleas
● Adult females have one purpose and that is to bite the dog or cat so the can lay eggs.
● Adults can live several months waiting for a host to bite.
● Once on a suitable host they feed-bite immediately.
● Each female flea can lay 40-50 eggs per day…for weeks.
● They leave evidence (manure) on the host which is essentially dried blood and known as ‘Flea Dirt’

Eggs
● Eggs are small, pearly white, and about a 1/2 mm in length, making them nearly invisible without a good magnifying glass.
● They are laid on the host and soon fall to the ground or floor as the animal scratches and moves about.

Larvae
● Larvae emerge from eggs and are big enough to seen, (they look like a small maggot).
● Larvae prefer to live in the dark and do not develop in bright sunlit areas.
● They feed on organic material including food crumbs, and dander from pets and people.
● Development of larvae is dependant on temperature and humidity: the warmer and more humid the weather, then the faster they develop…hint-hint…remember this past summer?

Pupae or Cocoons
● This is the final stage of the flea life cycle and this the hardiest of stages…nothing stops the cocoon, not even winter cold stops this stage of the flea.
● Cocoons can persist for years in vacant apartments and certainly thru the coldest of winters.
● Cream to whitish in color they are about 1/2 cm or 1/8 of an inch long.
● They are found on the ground, in furniture, carpet, floors and in bedding.
● Adult fleas can emerge from cocoons in as little at 8 days if the humidity and temperature are over 75 degrees and the humidity is over 78%.
● Pet safe chemicals that we use to treat and prevent flea infestations do not stop the pupae or cocoon from hatching into a live flea, we must wait until they hatch to have a chance to stop them.

Treating and Preventing Fleas:

I would like to be able to recommend a quick, easy solution to this common pest, however, such a single solution does not exist. Each home, each pet, each situation is different and each requires a well reasoned solution tailored to the needs of you, your family, and your pet.

A comprehensive flea-control program should eliminate fleas on pets, eliminate existing environmental infestations, and prevent subsequent re-infestations safely. Moderate to severe infestations may take several months to bring under control — remember the life cycle may take months to complete as we wait for the last remaining pupae-cocoons to hatch out.

Elimination of fleas on pets can be achieved through the use of available flea adulticides (chemicals that kill adult fleas). Currently there are two ways to achieve the elimination of the adults.

1 – Apply a topical medication to your pet, either as a monthly ‘spot-on’, or as an extended wear collar. Some of the names you may be familiar with are ‘Revolution’, ‘Frontline’, ‘Advantage’, and ‘Seresto’. Some of the current multi-chemical spot-ons also claim to have ‘repellant’ properties so they help keep fleas off of the pet as well. Most topical flea medications stay on the skin but not all. ‘Revolution’ is a topical systemic product that is both safe and effective, especially for cats. Soon we will have a new topical 3-month flea and tick medication for cats. This is exciting news for owners needing to treat inside-outside cats that are prone to ticks and fleas.

2 – Then there are the oral products. The oral medications do require the flea to bite the dog. There is a new class or group of oral products available in recent years and this group as a whole is very safe and very effective at killing fleas and ticks as well. One of the orals in this group is even labeled for use on an every 3 month basis (Bravecto), meaning we only have to dose it 4 times per year instead of monthly.

For years synthetic pyrethrins have been the main stay of the topical flea elimination plan for dogs and cats with various formulations including cyphenothrin, deltamethrin, flumethrin, and permethrin. These chemicals are usually applied as sprays and shampoos. Some formulations are registered for use on cats (e.g. flumethrin) while others may be toxic to cats.

CAUTION: NEVER APPLY DOG FLEA MEDICATION ON A CAT without verification that the product is labeled safe for cats.

Treating your home, yard, and the pets environment may be necessary. Certain flea insecticide formulations contain insect growth regulators (IGRs) or insect development inhibitors (IDIs) either alone or in combination with adulticides. These agents, which include lufenuron, methoprene, and pyriproxyfen, prevent flea eggs from hatching and kill larvae or early pupae.

Summary:
▪ Fleas are not easy to see…but they are ever-present, especially after a hot humid summer.
▪ Treating all dogs and cats on a year-round basis is the best defense against these disease carrying pests.
▪ There are numerous safe and effective options for eliminating and preventing flea and ticks. To develop a comprehensive plan that is best for your home, family and pets ask your veterinarian for help and information.

John Weiner, DVM
Pleasant Valley Veterinary Care, PC
Elkland, PA 16920
814-258-5719
http://pvvc.net

References and Links to more information:
https://www.capcvet.org/capc-recommendations/fleas/
http://us.bravecto.com/

Credits:
Idea/Concept: Dr. John Weiner
Videography: Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Dr. John Weiner
Anchor: Rhonda Pearson

Produced by Vogt Media
Funded by Sherwood Motel,

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