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Fleas in Fall? | Pets

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Fleas in Fall?
Fleas in Fall?

Fleas in Fall?

Most everyone assumes that fleas are out-of-sight, out-of-mind once summer is over.  But, that is unfortunately not true.  Veterinarians actually see many cases of fleas and flea allergy dermatitis in the fall and winter months.  Why does this happen?  Well, the answer is found in the flea’s life cycle.

A flea’s life cycle has 4 stages:  1. the adult flea.  2.  the flea egg.  3.  the larva.  4.  the pupa.

An adult flea must consume a blood meal before reproducing, but then lays eggs, in batches of about 20.  Fleas are capable of producing up to 500 eggs in their lifetime (which lasts 2 weeks-1 year).  After this initial meal, a flea can live the remainder of its life without feeding.  Here we find flea loophole #1:  Once the initial bite occurs, a flea can continue to live and reproduce in the environment without you seeing it on your pet.

Adult fleas make up about 5% of the total flea population.

Flea eggs are laid on your pet’s skin and are easily shaken or rubbed off onto the ground, carpet, bedding, in crevices of tile or hardwood floors, etc.  The eggs hatch within 2 days to 2 weeks, and a larval flea emerges.  The egg stage makes up approximately 50% of the total flea population.

There are 3 larval stages of fleas.  Fleas remain in the larva stage for 1-2 weeks.  This stage is typically not found on your pet, but is in the environment.    This is flea loophole #2:  Most flea prevention products are topical, aimed at killing adult fleas, and neutralizing eggs.  Although they are effective against larva, a larval flea may not be exposed to treatment, therefore, it can survive.  Larvae make up about 35% of the total flea population.

Flea larvae then hibernate in a silken cocoon.  This is called a “pupa.”  This stage can last for 1 week to several months.  The cocoon is flea loophole #3:  There is no product that is effective against the pupa stage.  Once a flea develops into the pupa, it WILL become an adult flea.  This is likely where the majority of fall and winter fleas come from.  Spring and summer fleas lay eggs, which develop to the pupa stage, then hibernate for up to 6 months.  Then, HELLO, there is a new batch of adult fleas in December!  The pupa stage accounts for about 10% of the total flea population.

So, what does this all mean?  How do we win this battle?  The most effective weapon we have is a reliable monthly flea preventative.  We commonly recommend Revolution, Comfortis or Parastar (dogs)/EasySpot (cats), but your veterinarian can help you choose the best product for your unique pet.  But it’s not enough to simply have these products in your medicine cabinet.  You must apply them every 30 days for 12 months a year!  Because we never know when these fleas are lurking about either in a non-feeding adult stage, an environmental egg or larva stage, or the invincible pupa stage, we must be ready at any moment for adult fleas to emerge.  If we miss the adult flea at the time it wants to feed on your pet, you can bet that you will have an infestation on your hands that may take months to get rid of!

If you are already experiencing a flea infestation, you should consider having your house and yard professionally treated by a pest control company.  Begin regular use of a prescription flea preventative immediately.  And, ask your veterinarian for help!  He/she has fought the flea battle before and knows how to win this war!