by David Moore
Manager of Technical Services and Board Certified Entomologist
with contributions by Eric Smith, PhD, BCE
No doubt, you have had some flea problems during this winter season because of your pet’s exposure by visiting places where flea-infested pets exist or they have come to visit you. Now, in a month or so, temperatures should be warm enough for your pets to spend time outside. This means that they will be exposed to fleas left behind by other pets, wild/feral dogs and cats, and wildlife such as raccoons, possums, etc. So, let’s get ready.
Fleas are a common problem of dogs and cats. The flea undergoes a complex life cycle. Adult female fleas lay 4-8 eggs after each blood meal. The eggs are laid on and among the pet’s hairs, not stuck/glued. As the pet rests or moves about, these microscopic eggs drop onto the floor or furniture or surface below where they hatch into larvae.
If conditions of high moisture (45-95% relative humidity; typically supplied by the pet), warm temperature, and food (dried fecal blood from adult fleas is required, and organic debris) are available, they eventually develop into adult fleas. Once on the pet, the adult flea remains there until its death.
It should be noted that cats are very good groomers and will kill and remove up to 50% of the fleas on their bodies. Unfortunately, dogs are not nearly as efficient at grooming.
You have basically three choices.
- Have a veterinarian or grooming salon shampoo your pet with a flea-control product.
- Purchase a flea control product that you or your veterinarian applies to your pet.
Note: The problem with the first two options listed above is that many fleas have become resistant in varying degrees to the pesticides contained in these products.
- Have your residence, and yard if appropriate, professionally treated for fleas in combo with one of the first two options listed above. This will give you the best possible flea control.
BEFORE FLEA TREATMENT OF YOUR RESIDENCE
Before a flea treatment can be properly done, it is necessary that you do the following in order to make the flea treatment successful.
- Remove all items such as toys, pillows, and magazines from off the floor or carpet, including closet floors.
- Remove all items or articles from under the beds and from under other furniture.
- If the pet is a cat, thoroughly clean all areas frequented by the cat, such as table tops, refrigerator tops, window sills, counters, etc.
- The day before treatment, either discard the pet’s bedding in an outside trash can and replace it with new bedding, or wash the bedding in a hot detergent solution and dry it in a dryer.
- If the pet sleeps on a bed, strip and clean the bedding the day before treatment.
- Vacuum ALL upholstered furniture, floors and carpeting, paying particular attention to:
- The foot of furniture on which the pet rests.
- Under furniture.
- Floor-wall and floor-furniture junctions.
- Upholstery folds and tufted areas of overstuffed furniture.
- Basement and/or garage floors if present and a pet has access, especially floor-wall and floor-furniture junctions and pet resting areas.
NOTE: If carpeting and rugs are not thoroughly vacuumed just prior to the flea control treatment, some pest management firms may NOT provide any guarantee for flea control.
- Immediately after vacuuming, empty or remove the vacuum bag into a plastic garbage bag, seal the top, and put it in an outside trash can.
- Cover aquariums and fish bowls and turn off their pumps just before leaving prior to the treatment.
- Be prepared to remove all occupants and pets (including birds) prior to treatment. People and pets must remain out of the building for at least one (1) hour after treatment.
- It is essential that your pets be taken to a veterinarian or grooming salon for professional flea treatment. It is suggested that you do this while your residence is being professionally treated.
FLEA TREATMENT OF YOUR RESIDENCE
The pest management professional should apply an EPA registered flea adulticide and Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) combination to your residence to control fleas. This combination provides knockdown and kill of adult fleas. It also kills the eggs and stops flea larvae from pupating so they do not become adult fleas. It should not wet carpets or damage furniture.
The treatment should affect the egg, larval, and adult stages of the flea life cycle. Unfortunately, no pesticide can penetrate the pupal cocoon so no pesticide can kill the fleas which are in the pupal stage or have not emerged from the cocoon at the time of application.
AFTER TREATMENT OF YOUR RESIDENCE
- Occupants and pets must stay out of the treated building for one (1) to four (4) hour(s) after treatment. The pest management professional will give you instructions before you leave.
- Upon re-entering your residence, you may detect a mild or slightly sweet odor. If this occurs, the odor will go away after you ventilate your residence by opening a few windows.
- For the next 5-10 days, you may see a few fleas. These fleas have emerged from their pupal cocoons after the treatment but will be killed by the insecticide. If these fleas are of concern, be prepared to vacuum every day or every-other day for a week or so. Vacuuming can be resumed anytime after you re-enter your residence.
- Your pet can pick up fleas outdoors throughout the flea season and/or from other pets with flea problems at any time of the year. However, due to the nature of the flea treatment done in your residence, none of the eggs laid after the treatment described above will develop into adults during the guarantee period.
But, you should periodically check your pet for fleas and when needed, take your pet back to a veterinarian or grooming salon.
If your pet spends time outside, then it is appropriate to spot treat those areas in your yard where your pet spends their time exercising, resting, and/or napping, or where wild animals do the same things. These are the places where flea larvae can survive and develop into adults.
The IGR used outside in the yard must be photo stable so that it does not readily break down in sunlight.