Animal Health Center of Marion Co. Inc.

119 South Coble Street
Marion, KS 66861

(620)382-8800

ahcmc.com

Essential Facts about Fleas

  • Adult fleas spend most of their time on the animal, not in the carpet. This is why treatment of the pet along with the environment is an essential step in ridding a home of fleas.
  • Adult fleas lay all of their eggs on the pet. However, the eggs soon fall off the animal into carpeting, beneath the cushions of furniture, and wherever else the pet rests, sleeps or spends most of its time. This is where homeowners should focus control measures.  If you have stray animals running through your yard, they can easily drop flea eggs into the yard.
  • After hatching, flea eggs develop larvae. Larvae remain hidden deep in carpet fibers, beneath furniture cushions and in other protected areas. The larvae feed mainly on dried blood which accumulates, along with the eggs, in pet resting and activity areas.
  • Before becoming adult fleas, the larvae transform into pupae in a silk-like cocoon. Pupae remain inside the cocoon for 2 to 4 weeks. The cocoon is resistant to insecticides and this is why some adult fleas are seen for an extended period, even after the home and pet are treated.

Treatment of Premises

If you neglect to treat the pet's environment you will miss more than 90% of the developing flea population -- the eggs, larvae and pupae. If the pet spends time indoors, the interior of the home should also be treated. Before treatment, the pet owner should:

  • Remove all toys, clothing, and stored items from floors, under beds, and in closets. This step is essential so that all areas will be accessible for treatment.
  • Remove pet food and water dishes, cover fish tanks, and disconnect their aerators.
  • Wash, dry-clean or destroy all pet bedding.
  • Vacuum! -- vacuuming removes eggs, larvae and pupae developing within the home.  The light and the beater bar acts like movement of an animal to stimulates pre-adult fleas to emerge from their insecticide-resistant cocoons, thus hastening their contact with insecticide residues in the carpet. By raising the nap of the carpet, vacuuming improves the insecticide's penetration down to where the developing fleas live. Vacuum thoroughly, especially in areas where pets rest or sleep. Don't forget to vacuum along edges of rooms and beneath furniture, cushions, beds, and throw rugs. After vacuuming, put the contents into a plastic bag, seal it, and discard it in an outdoor trash container.  Vaccuum aggressively for 3-5 days before spraying.

Insecticide Application - Once fleas become established in a home, insecticides are almost always needed to control them. Other than the person performing the application, people and pets should be out of the house during treatment. People and pets should also remain off treated surfaces until the spray has dried.

Many different products are available for home treatment. The most effective formulations contain both an adulticide effective against the biting adult stage, and an insect growth regulator (s-methoprine is commonly used), necessary to provide long-term suppression of the eggs, larvae and pupae.  Most homeowners will find aerosol formulations (Knockout Area Treatment ®) easier to apply and tend to be more effective than “foggers” or “bug bombs” (Knockout Room and Area Fogger ®) because you can directly apply it to affected areas. It is essential that the application be thorough and includes all likely areas of flea development. Carpets, throw rugs, under and behind beds and furniture, and beneath cushions and couches on which pets sleep should all be treated. Pay particular attention to areas where pets spend time or sleep, as these will be the areas where most flea eggs, larvae and pupae will be concentrated. For example, if the family cat sleeps within a closet, or hides under the bed, these areas must be treated or the problem will continue. Hardwood and tile floors generally do not require treatment, but should be thoroughly vacuumed.

Expect to see a new flea hatch 2 weeks or longer following treatment. Provided all infested areas were treated initially, these "survivors" are probably newly emerged adults which have not yet succumbed to the insecticide. Instead of retreating the premises immediately, continue to vacuum. As noted earlier, vacuuming stimulates the insecticide-resistant pupae to hatch, bringing the newly emerged adults into contact with the insecticide sooner. If adult fleas continue to be seen beyond 2 weeks, retreatment of the premises (and pet) may be necessary. 

Treatment of Pet

It is important that the pet be treated in conjunction with the premises, preferably on the same day. Adult fleas spend virtually their entire life on the animal -- not in the carpet. Untreated pets will continue to be bothered by fleas. They may also transport fleas in from outdoors, eventually overcoming the effectiveness of the insecticide applied inside the home.

Pets can be treated either by a veterinarian or the pet owner. Many products are available for flea treatment of the animal. Examples of topical medications are Frontline® and Revolution®.  Oral Treatments include Comfortis® and Nexguard®.   These products are available through your veterinarian.

There are several products available through shops like Walmart, Target and Dillons.  On these products be sure to read the label before you purchase it.  Some may be a generic version of a branded product, and may be once a month.  Some may be a pyrethrin product and can only be used on dogs.  There are products that have both written instructions to be used only on dogs and a yellow icon.  These products make cats extremely sick, to the point they will need veterinary care, typically on an emergency basis.  

Pet owners should always read the product label. Do not treat pets with the same products used to treat carpeting or the yard. As previously mentioned, it is important that pets be kept off treated carpets and surfaces until the spray has completely dried.

To have the treatment be most effective do not wash the dog two days before or two days after administration of the topical.  The topical treatments can be given more than once a month if needed but this is best to discuss with your veterinarian on a case by case basis.

Treatment of Yard

In cases where pets spend some of their time outdoors, it may also be necessary to treat the yard. Many times that is where the new flea hatch is emerging.  Be suspicious of a new flea hatch in the yard if you have used a flea topical preventative consistently every month and are now finding a large number of fleas.  Especially if the fleas are very small (new and young).  Yards that have a tall solid privacy fence tend to not have flea issues, as they keep stray animals out.  Those strays can drop flea eggs into the grass and start the infestation.

Outdoor flea treatment should focus on areas where pets rest, sleep, and run, such as doghouse and kennel areas, under decks, along fences and next to the foundation. It is seldom necessary to treat the entire yard or areas exposed to full sun. Flea granules can be found through many hardware or home improvement stores. Spectracide is one example.  Follow the label instructions on the package and retreat monthly.  Granules do a much better job than sprays, because they fall down to the soil, which does a better job of killing fleas, ants and chiggers.  I recommend letting your dogs out for the evening, bring them back in, then treat your yard.  Sprinkle the granules and water them down.  That gives you at least 12 hours of time keeping your pets off the yard, which should help to prevent exposure issues. 

Sometimes owners are bringing the fleas into the house to their pet.  If you r yard does not have a privacy fence, consider the yard a source of infection and treat it, even if your pet is inside only.  If you have a crawl space or dead space below your house, treat it, as it too is a source of infection.  Also remember that you will need to repeat the treatment in 10-14 days if you used a spray product.