Everything You Need to Know About Fleas
Fleas are tiny parasites that can live on the skin surface and feed off the blood of your pets. Fleas can cause a variety of symptoms: uncomfortable itching, blood loss anemia, hairloss, flea allergy dermatitis, tapeworms, and bacterial infections; although, not all pets with fleas itch.
Adult fleas may be witnessed on the pet, but these are only the "tip of the iceberg"- adult fleas represent only 5% of the flea population in the environment- the rest is composed of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae (cocoons). More likely, you will see "flea dirt"- which is composed of flea feces / digested blood- and looks like black pepper in the pet's haircoat. These black flecks will dissolve into a reddish brown color when wet (to differentiate flea dirt from just dirt).
Fleas must feed off pets in order to reproduce, so preventing a flea infestation is best done by treating your pet (and all pets in the household even if they don't all seem itchy!). Your veterinarian will help you pick an appropriate product for your pet's age, health, and risks. Flea prevention is best applied all year round- flea treatment must be done consistently for a minimum of 6 months in order to rid the environment of flea cocoons. In general, flea bombs and flea shampoos are NOT recommended as they can cause toxicities and do not have lasting effects. Indoor sprays may be more effective as you can direct them into problem areas such as under furniture. Daily aggressive vacuuming under furniture where your pet spends time can greatly decrease the number of flea egg/larvae, but you have to dump the vacuum cannister or bag outside immediately when finished. Yard treatments can be done (pay special attention to shady areas), but are NOT sufficient to protect your pet. Indoor only pets (such as cats) are still at risk for fleas as humans or indoor/outdoor pets can track fleas into the house. Visit http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-diseases-conditions-a-z/fleas-101
Fleas! - Why So Hard to Control?
Why are fleas so hard to control? Part of the answer lies in their complex life cycle. The adult flea is found on the warm blooded animal and sucks blood in order to lay eggs. An adult flea may lay 50 eggs every 24 hours. These eggs (white and about the size of a period at the end of sentence) fall off the animal wherever the animal goes. These eggs hatch (after a few days or weeks) into larvae (thin white "worms" about the size of an eyelash) that work their way into dark places (deep in carpet fibers or cracks between hardwood floors and under furniture and bedding). These larvae persist for 1 to 3 weeks. Finally, these larvae enter a pupae stage - think of a cocoon for a butterfly. Inside these cocoons, the developing flea is protected from heat, drought, and many flea treatment chemicals. On average, the cocoon stage can last up to 6 months (but in perfect flea conditions- the cocoons may last up to a year). The cocoons are stimulated to open and release the adult flea by: the vibration caused by animals walking by or the carbon dioxide or heat put off when animals are breathing nearby.
Flea treatment can be frustrating because not all cocoons hatch at once- they often hatch out in waves, making it appear that your pet has a consistent, long lasting infestation when in reality your flea treatment may be working fine but new fleas are jumping onto your pet from the environment. Talk to your veterinarian about the fastest, safest ways to get through a flea infestation.
Visit http://vetmedicine.about.com/od/parasites/f/FAQ_fleacycle.htm for the complete story.