dvm (97)Spring rains and summer temperatures signal and cause the beginning of flea season. While dogs, cats and other small mammals are fleas’ favorite hosts, humans will provide a good meal for any hungry flea.

Fleas are a nuisance but can also transmit diseases to people such as bubonic plague, murine typhus and spotted fever. They cause allergies, skin disease, anemia and spread various infectious diseases to our four-legged friends as well. Fleas are truly a pet owner’s curse and worst nightmare. Designed to survive and efficient at reproducing, these blood-sucking pests can quickly overrun a house. For every adult flea seen on a dog or cat, there are dozens more in various life stages (eggs, larvae and pupae) around the pet’s environment.

Once on a pet, the flea will start drinking blood immediately and about eight hours later will start to mate with other fleas on the pet. Within about 24 hours, female fleas lay eggs that roll off the pet and into the home/bed/yard. Females can lay 40 to 50 eggs per day over their lifetime, resulting in more than 2,000 eggs added to the environment. Thirty adult fleas can explode into more than 250,000 fleas in less than one month!

Given these huge numbers, it is entirely possible to see live fleas on your pets that have been treated with flea medications. None of the flea treatments kill fleas immediately nor do they repel fleas. Most topical medications will kill fleas within one to two hours after the flea jumps onto the pet and oral products only work when the flea actually settles down and bites the pet.

So, when you are faced with a flea problem in your home, talk with your veterinarian about effective flea control medications. Products like Frontline Plus® are safe and have proven track records! Next, make sure that all pets in the household are treated. Even the “indoor-only” cat will need protection from adult fleas hatching in the home environment. Continue the treatment until the infestation is gone from the home. If your pet is picking up adult fleas in the yard or at the park, you may need to consider using a flea product all year long. A home area treatment spray can help eliminate flea colonies more quickly, but be sure to use one that contains an insect growth regulator (IGR). IGRs prevent flea eggs from hatching and flea larvae from molting.

Understanding the flea life cycle can help you defeat this unrelenting annual pest. Your veterinarian and staff will guide you toward the best flea product for your needs and can even answer concerns you have about treating the environment.

Dr. Russell N. Ueckert has been providing veterinary care for animals in the Big Country for over 19 years. This article was produced in part with contributions from Veterinary News Network. For all of your veterinary needs look to www.bigcountryvets.com.