Flea Season is Upon Us!

Even though we have started spring with some pretty low temperatures, overall this winter has been a mild one for the Southshore. The Northshore has had some significant freezes, but we have basically dodged the bullet every time. Consequently, this upcoming flea season will be formidable.

Fleas thrive in our warm and humid environment. Eggs need a humidity of 70% to hatch and larvae need at least 50% to survive. Fleas thrive at temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees. In the flea life cycle, the flea larvae hatch from eggs, and given an adequate supply of food, pupate weaving a protective silken cocoon. Pupae can withstand extreme weather conditions and only succumb to extended freeze periods where the temperature is below 32 degrees for up to 48 hours. (They also cannot survive mile high altitudes). This is why, no matter what we do, the fleas thrive. In ideal conditions, fleas reproduce every two weeks. In harsh conditions, fleas lay dormant in the pupae stage until conditions are more favorable or until the vibration from a potential host signals them to emerge. Then the adult flea’s goal is to find blood and reproduce. If the flea does not find blood within the first week, it will die. After that it can survive 2-3 years between meals. Female fleas can lay thousands of eggs over their lifetime in batches of 20-50. Those eggs (remaining on the host or falling into the environment) will become adults in two weeks HUNGRY for their first meal and ready to reproduce.

Fleas are extremely difficult to kill. They have been around since the middle Jurassic period and they intend to stay. They can be drowned, but are usually so embedded in a pet’s thick fur that even shampooing is only mildly effective to reduce the numbers . Fleas have very hard bodies able to withstand great pressure. Their legs are long and can jump vertically up to 7 inches and horizontally up to 13 inches.

There are many flea control products available. Some more worthy than others. Many are packaged similarly, but are not similar in efficacy. It is important to know which products are the safest and most effective for your pet. Our veterinarians and staff will be happy to recommend the most effective products for your pet and your household situation. It is also important to realize that flea control is multi- faceted and often needs to be attacked on various fronts. First of all, it is so important that pets are treated with a monthly flea control product religiously year round, even in winter months (we have very mild winters). These come in various forms including topicals and pills. Topicals and pills are generally much more effective than any type of flea collar. We have a variety of flea control products that are topicals and pills. Each are effective and have their advantages. We also have some products with a flea and heartworm prevention combined so that the pet only takes one pill monthly. For many, the monthly flea control products provide adequate protection (it makes the pet like a walking flea trap), but more often, not only must the pets be treated but the environment (indoor and outdoor) as well. For severe flea infestations, this is the best approach. Actually, the best approach is to apply monthly products diligently so that problem doesn’t become severe. Monthly products lose their efficacy toward the end of the month. They may provide some protection after four weeks, but they are not effective for months after they are given. It is so important to keep up with the monthly application or dosage of these products so that your pets are protected. It is also important to treat all pets in the household. Remember, most flea control products are effective at killing fleas but they do not repel fleas. If a pet walks into a flea infested area, fleas may jump on the pet. They will be killed when they come into contact with the product or bite the pet. The product does not prevent the fleas from jumping on the pet so you may see fleas on the pet after the pet has been for a walk in a shady area or an area where many pets have been. This doesn’t mean your flea control product is not working. We have seen in the recent past that fleas may get immune to a particular flea control product over time. We have a variety of options to keep your pet protected throughout the summer. We will help you find the best product that works for your pet and your environment.

Flea like dark spaces, so if you are treating your yard, you may want to focus on the places and spaces that your pets stay in the most, especially the shady areas. Inside your house they love carpets, rugs, upholstery, bedding and underneath furniture. Frequent vacuuming may help as long as disposal of the vacuum bag is immediate.

Flea control products kill various stages of flea development, but no product kills the protected pupae stage. This stage can lay dormant for long periods of time and hatch when vibrations are felt (presence of a host) and/or conditions are warmer or more humid. They hatch out HUNGRY! This is why after a house is sprayed or a lawn is treated, the fleas keep returning despite attentive efforts. Remember, fleas reproduce every two weeks in ideal conditions. This is why it is so important to diligently apply monthly flea control products all year long and consider a multimodal attack when fleas are out of control.

There are several forms of flea control: oral, topical and absorbable topical. Not every products is right for every pet. For example, some products are fine for dogs but unsafe for cats. If you share your home with both dogs and cats, you will want to avoid treating your dogs with a product that is unsafe for cats.

Below is a list of the various flea control products we carry and recommend.

  • Frontline Plus – (Merial) This product is a safe an effective topical flea and tick control product which is applied monthly. It kills adult fleas, flea eggs, flea larvae, ticks and chewing lice. This product is waterproof for moderate bathing if you do not use a stripping shampoo and if the product is allowed to establish itself on the body for 48 hours. (Fipronil)
  • Tritak – (Merial) This product is a safe, waterproof, and effective topical flea and tick control product applied monthly. It takes the Fipronil and s-methoprene in Frontline Plus and adds Cyphonothrin to increase the tick protection and flea kill as soon as one hour after application. This product is slightly more expensive and more effective than Frontline Plus. It is a new combination of active ingredients which fleas have not been exposed to. (Fipronil, s-methoprene, cyphonothrin)

Frontline and Tritak are backed by a Teriminix Guaranty. If you have purchased your product from your veterinarian and can prove that you have treated all pets in the household for three consecutive months and the product is not working, Merial will send Terminix to your house for treatment.

  • Comfortis – This product is a chewable pill that is given with food. In laboratory studies, the active flea control ingredient, spinosad, began to kill fleas within 30 minutes and killed 100% of fleas within four hours. When the pill is taken with food, spinosad stays in the bloodstream for four weeks. This product should not be used by breeding or nursing females, pets who have experienced seizures . Pets who are currently taking Ivermectin cannot take this product. (Spinosad)
  • Trifexis - Trifexis is a sister product to Confortis which not only contains spinosad as a flea control but milbemycin as a heartworm prevention. This is also a chewable pill that must be given with food so it can be absorbed with the proteins and lipids in the food. This product should not be used by breeding or nursing females, pets under 14 weeks of age, or dogs that have experienced seizures. Pets who are taking Ivermectin cannot take this product. (Spinosad + milbemycin oxime)
  • Capstar – (Novartis) This product (for dogs and cats) is a pill that begins killing adult fleas on the body within 30 minutes and kills 90% of adult fleas within four hours. Most pets can be redosed within 24 hours. This is a great product for “flea emergencies” but is only in the blood stream for a few hours. It is good to use in conjunction with a monthly product to “jump start” the results. (Nitenpyram)
  • Advantage II – (Bayer) Advantage is one of the first topical flea control products available. Imidacloprid , the active ingredient, is very safe and very effective for flea control. We particularly like this product for cats since they are not bathed very often. The product “paralyzes fleas to death. This product also has growth regulator that kill eggs and larve and is waterproof. (Imidacloprid, pyriproxyfen)
  • Revolution- (Pfizer) This product is a topical that is absorbed. It is a flea control product and heartworm prevention. This is a great product for cats because it is so complete and easy to apply since cats do not fancy taking monthly heartworm prevention pills. It is a great alternative for dogs who do not like taking pills also. It kills adult fleas and preventions flea eggs from hatching. It also controls mange mites and ear mites in addition to various intestinal parasites in cats. (Selamectin)

Fleas attack a wide variety of hosts including dogs, cats, humans, chickens, rabbits, squirrels, rats, ferrets, and mice. Besides the annoyance of itching from fleas biting, many people and animals have reactions to flea saliva resulting in extreme itching, rashes, inflammation and hair loss (flea allergy dermatitis). Hosts can suffer from flea anemia in severe cases. Fleas are also a vector for bacteria, viruses and protozoa They are the intermediate host for tapeworms (intestinal parasite) which we frequently see in our pets stool. Bubonic plague and murine typhus are transmitted from rats to humans by fleas.