The Flea Life Cycle
Dogs and Cats pick up fleas anywhere other animals have been. In summer that can be inside or outside, in the winter it is usually from warm cars or houses and often carpets. New research has shown that most fleas live their lives on the first animal they meet and neither hop from animal to animal nor jump off. Fleas only live for 10 to 14 days but can bite their host many times in those few days. The female flea will start laying eggs within a day of jumping on to your pet and will lay up to 30 eggs a day. These eggs are very shiny and fall out of the coat as tiny white specks. The eggs hatch out into tiny larvae with black heads that eat dust and dander, growing very rapidly. If conditions are warm enough the larvae will pupate within a couple of weeks and after a further week or so will be ready to hatch. The pupae, which are very sticky, attach to whatever surface they are on and also get covered in dust which camouflages them. The pupae wait until they can sense a dog or cat (or sometimes a person!) coming near them, then they hatch out and use their powerful legs to leap aboard. The life cycle takes about a month in the summer or in a centrally-heated house, but slows down when it is cold. This is why rooms that have been shut up are often found to be alive with fleas a few months later. Hoovering helps to reduce flea numbers, but will not eradicate them.
As you can see, picking up even one flea from where another animal has been a few months ago results in hundreds of eggs in the house. An infestation can soon build up.
Controlling Adult Fleas
Few products will kill the adult fleas before they have time to lay more eggs. Therefore complete flea eradication is difficult and usually requires the use of several products together and take 2 months at least. The various options are:
Flea & Tick Collars
There is a new collar for cats and dogs called Seresto, that is very safe, lasts 8 months and are licenced to contol ticks and fleas, however we have found that they also help control harvest mites and sarcoptic mange but are not licenced for that. Please note that if your pet swims every day the flea control may only last 5 months and you are probably better using Bravecto for dogs.
Scalibor Collars, ( dogs only) control ticks, sandflies & Mosquitoes very well but have little effect against fleas.
This is a very safe long acting spray which provides some control of adult fleas for up to two months in cats and three months in dogs if applied properly. If used monthly it also helps control ticks. You need to use an environmental control spray as well to control flea populations. It helps with harvest mite reactions. In our experience it no longer works as well as it used to.
The spot-on liquids are very easy to use and very safe, but their effectiveness depends on your pet’s coat: Frontline will kill adult fleas after a few days but they will lay some eggs so won’t control infestations however it does help control ticks in both dogs and cats. Advantage is effective against fleas and also helps control the larvae in the environment, but doesn't control ticks. Advantix (for dogs only) is the best spot-on for ticks and also controls fleas, flea larvae and mosquitoes very well however can leave greasy spots on your dog’s coat for a few days. It is very toxic to fish and wildlife and so dogs with it on should not be allowed to swim in ponds. It will kill cats if the liquid gets on them.
Stronghold kills adult fleas, larvae and eggs, roundworms, lice, sarcoptic mange in dogs and ear mites in cats. Advocate kills fleas, roundworms, ear mites, sarcoptic and demodectic mange in dogs but doesn’t work if they get wet more than twice a month.
Broadline (For Cats Only) Kills fleas, all worms, mites and ticks. However there is quite a lot of liquid and it is a bit greasy so doesn't suit all cats.
Bravecto is a tasty chew for dogs that kills fleas and ticks and lasts three months. It is not affected by swimming or washing and is safe for the enviroment. It is very effective and popular.
Comfortis is a tablet for dogs and cats that kills fleas immediately so they don’t have time to lay eggs. It is very safe. It needs repeating monthly. It is very good if dogs swim a lot, however it does not kill ticks.
Capstar is a tablet for killing adult fleas which is very effective and safe and can be used throughout pregnancy and nursing. It lasts for 24 hours in dogs and 48 hours in cats. It is usually given to kill adult fleas whilst environmental control is implemented.
It is important to wash your pet's bedding regularly and hoover thoroughly as well. Flee spray is insecticide free, works immediately killing adult fleas and lasts a couple of weeks. Indorex kills fleas, larvae and eggs, lasts 12 months and also controls house dust mites. Acclaim and RIP stop flea larvae developing and also last a year.
There are also treatments for your pet which will stop fleas breeding and so control fleas in the environment. Program can be given as an injection in cats which lasts for up to six months, or given as a liquid or tablet in the food. Frontline Combo is a spot on combining a flea killer with a treatment that stops flea eggs hatching and so helps with environmental control and ticks.
Within a few months of starting any of these environmental treatments, almost all the fleas in a house will have hatched and died.
You may find your pet will pick up fleas when they are out, which may need treating with an adult killer such as Capstar or Comfortis, but as long as you keep up the environmental treatment, these can't breed so disappear.
Stronghold used monthly provides excellent control of worms, mites, lice and fleas but not ticks. You can use it with Scalibor collars to control ticks as well.
In severe infestations Comfortis in dogs and cats with Indorex rapidly controls the problem.
Seresto collars control ticks and fleas in dogs and cats for 8 months.
Acclaim and RIP are good for routine environmental control, Indorex is better if there is a problem.