Fleas are wingless external parasites with piercing and sucking mouthparts used to penetrate their host’s skin in order to suck blood. Fleas remain close to their hosts, living in their nests and homes, preferring warm humid sites. The cat flea is the most common household flea in the U.S., and it’s preferred hosts are cats, dogs and people.
A Brief Overview
The lifecycle of the flea has 4 phases; egg, larvae, pupa and adult. The eggs are not fastened to the host, but may be laid in small batches on the host, nearby in the host’s nest, or in dirt and lint. In one to twelve days the eggs hatch into maggot-like larvae that feed on dirt and debris, including dried blood from adult flea droppings.
After seven to fifteen days the larvae spin silken cocoons, usually covered with debris for camouflage, and become pupa. Adult fleas emerge from the cocoon in a week, or they can delay emergence as long as a year if conditions are unfavorable.
Adult fleas can live for several months if conditions are right, even when unable to feed. Female fleas need a blood meal before they are able to lay eggs.
Flea bites cause local irritation, allergic reactions and secondary infection in the bite. The ability of fleas to feed on a variety of hosts permits the transmission of diseases and tapeworms from wild animals to humans and pests. The infamous bubonic plague was transmitted from rats to humans through fleas.
Monitor fleas on your pet by combing it’s fur while it stands on a light colored cloth spread flat on the floor (pillow case or sheet works well). Look for “salt and pepper” fragments that fall out with the hair. This is flea eggs and dried blood flakes.
To monitor for fleas in the house, spread a light colored pillowcase on the floor again and place a shallow dish of water on it. Drop a couple of Alka-Seltzer tablets into the water, as the bubbles fizz they give off carbon dioxide that will attract the newly emerged fleas. Watch for them hopping onto the cloth.
Summer and fall are when fleas become the most numerous and may need the attention of an exterminator. Along with any chemical intervention there are non-chemical recommendations that will expedite control.
Please note: Pets that run loose will continue to have a problem with fleas and will reintroduce them to the household regardless of how much chemical is used. A combined approach is the only resolution to a flea infestation.
Non Chemical checklist (implement prior to chemical service)
- Wash all pet bedding in hot water – or destroy it
- Vacuum all carpeting thoroughly, under furniture, in closets and especially places your pet likes to rest
- Vacuum all cracks and crevices along baseboards, around heating vents, radiators etc.
- Vacuum all upholstered furniture, under and around all cushions
- After vacuuming, dispose of the vacuum bag. Wrap it tightly in plastic and take it to an outdoor trash can
- Mop all wood and tiled floors
- Walk leashed dogs in a new area, to avoid re-infestation
Interior treatments consist of a fine broadcast spray of all infested areas, carpets, rugs, floors, crawl spaces, pet bedding and resting areas and furniture
Have pets treated professionally the same day you have your home treated. Have your vet recommend a maintenance program for your pet, new developments in this area of treatment make flea and tick control on your pet easier than ever before
Exterior treatments are recommended when infestation is high and pets remain in a controlled area outdoors. IE: fenced yard, dog run or kennel
After the service
Do not re-enter the house until chemical is completely dry – at least a couple of hours
Put off cleaning carpets, floors and treated furniture with detergents as long a s possible – at least a few days
Vacuuming is recommended immediately and frequently
The chemicals used only affect two stages of flea development so you may notice some flea activity after the treatment is done. Continue to vacuum frequently and monitor for fleas. After two weeks there should be no more biting, and all activity should cease after 3-4 weeks.