As much as we all love pets, none of us want to unintentionally add a few hundred non-human houseguests to our family. Fleas can quickly and quietly hit this mark before you even know what’s going on.

At Blue Valley Animal Hospital, we firmly believe that when it comes to fleas and other external parasites, a good defense is the best offense. This time of year, these pesky ectoparasites are at their peak. No worries, though, because we are here to share our best fall flea control strategies.

Your Opponent, the Flea

Ah, the flea. A time honored opponent of many a pet-parent, these all-too-familiar six-legged freeloaders are the most common external parasite we see on our patients. Besides causing your pet to be itchy, they can also contribute to skin allergy problems, transmit other parasites, and carry disease.

The common flea, Ctenocephalides felis, thrives in warmer climates where the female flea can lay about 40-50 eggs per day. Not to worry, though. Fleas can continue their life cycle indoors, even when the temperatures drop here in Kansas.

Eggs are laid on the host (your pet!) after a blood meal and are deposited in the environment within just a few hours. The larvae then feed on things like adult flea feces and other organic debris in the environment. How quickly they develop into pupae depends entirely on the temperature and humidity of the environment.

Fleas can move from the pupal to adult stage in as little as eight days when temperatures are around 75 F. That said, if conditions are not right, the flea can lie dormant for up to 30 weeks until temperature, humidity, mechanical pressures, and carbon dioxide level (i.e. something breathing in the nearby area) are just right. 

Fleas are formidable opponents, and for every one adult flea that you are able to see, it is important to remember that there are 50 more in various life stages in the surrounding environment. 

Flea Control Tips

So what is one to do about fleas, especially this part of the year where temperatures of around 75 F are quite common? The trick is to never let them start a life cycle on your pet or in your home. 

Successful flea control depends on staying ahead of the problem. While it is possible to eradicate a flea infestation once started, it can be a lot of work and take some time. Prevent fleas by:

Using good flea preventives – Regular parasite prevention is the cornerstone of a good flea control program. While many options and remedies exist, it is important to use a quality, recommended product. Please call us so that we can help you pick the right flea preventative for your pet. Thankfully there are lots of safe and effective options for pets of all ages and sizes these days. It is also important to administer these as directed (usually monthly), without skipping months year round. Lapses in treatment are key opportunities for these pesky parasites. Our weather is not consistent enough to stop flea prevention in the winter months.

Controlling the environment – Making sure to control existing fleas in the environment is key, too. Of course if there are known fleas within the home, steps must be taken. In addition to keeping all pets in the home on consistent and quality flea preventative to break the life cycle, be sure to vacuum the areas your pet spends the most time frequently and wash bedding often. These places are where the highest numbers of eggs and larvae will be found. 

Keep the outdoors outdoors – Remember that fleas probably like to hang out in the same areas that your pet does. Shady, well protected areas such as under shrubbery or decking are common flea breeding grounds. In most instances, having a pet on quality flea prevention and eliminating these areas to a reasonable extent will be sufficient. If, however, your property seems to have a heavy flea burden actual insecticides may be appropriate. This is best left to a pest control professional. 

So as the weather cools a bit here, remember that the fleas are just getting started. Together with our pet professionals at Blue Valley Animal Hospital, though, we can mount a good fight. Fleas don’t have to be a part of pet ownership, we promise!