Your poor miserable dog scratches and chews, flips around and scratches some more. Panting from exertion, he finally settles down to sleep but the itching starts once more and he frantically starts to scratch again. You tell him to stop and he does but you can see the itching has not and he is valiantly trying to do as you bid. You tell him he is a good boy and his tail wags listlessly as his hind leg comes up again to scratch.
The itching must stop – for both your sakes!
Fleas are the number one cause of misery in dogs and their owners. One female flea can lay 2,000 eggs in her lifetime meaning even a few fleas is an imminent infestation. The flea lifecycle is much the same as a butterfly – females lay eggs that turn into larvae before becoming pupae. Pupae can live for years in their nice safe cocoons waiting for something warm to come close. Once a mammal walks past, they can shed their cocoon and jump up to four feet to land on their host – hibernation to feasting in less then three seconds!
Worse yet, the fleas you see are not the infestation, it is the flea eggs, larvae and pupae in the carpet, furniture and bedding that are the real problem. On average only five percent of the fleas in a room will be on the pet, while ten percent are pupae, thirty-five percent are larvae and fifty percent are flea eggs all in the carpet and furniture.
Fleas carry some serious diseases although we do not see them often in the western hemisphere. However, fleas carry tapeworms and can infect your pet with the nutrient sucking parasites!
So a few fleas may not seem like a problem now, but wait a month or two, you and your poor miserable pet will be knee deep in the nasty bloodsuckers. Then the fun really begins.
How to Get Rid of Fleas
Getting rid of them is not as difficult as it was even as recently as twenty years ago. Drug companies like Novartis®, Pfizer® and Bayer® have made giant steps in eradicating flea infestations with products such as Program™, Revolution™ and Advantage™.
Program™ was the first of the breakthrough flea products. It came on the market in the mid 90’s as a beef-flavored pill for dogs and a sweet tasting goo for cats, revolutionizing flea management in the veterinary industry. Still available, it works as birth control for fleas – they can still bite but they can no longer reproduce so in time and/or with household sprays, the infestation is stopped in its tracks. Soon after, an injectable form of Program™ was developed for cats, as not all were keen on the liquid goo form. The oral treatment is a monthly dose while the injectable Program™ lasts for up to six months.
Although this was a breakthrough, it was not fast enough to help the pets that suffered from flea allergies. What was needed was something that killed on contact.
Advantage™ was the next on the market. This topical insecticide is applied to the back of a pet’s neck and guarantees to kill 99% of fleas within 24 hours for up to a month. If Program™ revolutionized flea control, Advantage™ stood it on its ear!
Pfizer® decided to mix a few treatments in one with Revolution™. Again, it is topical and applied to the back and neck of the pet but not only does it kill fleas, it also kills ticks, ear mite, sarcoptic mange and kills and prevents heartworm. It also works on nematode intestinal worms – hookworms, whipworms and roundworms. Revolution™ is truly revolutionary, especially in hot or humid climates where heartworms and intestinal worms are an ongoing concern.
However, none of these products kills the flea eggs, larvae or pupae in the carpet so infestations will still occur as pupa hatch and leap onto you or your pet. Household sprays that include methoprene such as Precor™ kill pre-adult fleas and are effective in the environment for three to four months. Killing adult fleas in the house can be done with any of the sprays that include pyrethrins although care must be taken if there are pets in the house, especially cats. Read the instructions carefully before using and take their precautions seriously.
What is the best method for you, your pet and your home? In mild climates where fleas are a problem all year around, it is easiest to administer a monthly flea control product every four weeks religiously so the bloodsuckers never take a hold in your home. Areas of the country that do have a cold winter will have a season where the monthly flea control is unnecessary, as fleas stay dormant through the winter. If you live in an area where heartworm is a problem, have your pet tested for the parasite first and if clear, a monthly treatment of Revolution™ will control both problems at once.
If you do not have a pet, spray your house and furniture with Precor™ every three months or as soon as you notice a new hatching of adult fleas. It will take time for the infestations to stop but eventually you will be flea free!
Final note: if your pet has suffered through a flea infestation, have them treated for tapeworms. Tapeworms are highly infectious and are easily transmitted to humans. Deworming products are available through your veterinarian along with the flea control products recommended throughout this article.