What are fleas?

Fleas are wingless, with mouthparts adapted for piercing the skin and sucking the blood of its host. Fleas are external parasites, living by hematophagy off blood of mammals and birds. A flea can jump vertically up to 7 inches and horizontally up to 13 inches, making the flea one of the best jumpers of all known animals (relative to body size), second only to the froghopper. Fleas go through 4 life cycles, egg, larva, pupa and adult. Adult fleas must feed on blood before they can become capable of reproduction. A fleas total life span can be as short as one year, but may be several years in ideal conditions which includes the right temperature, food supply and humidity. A female flea can lay 5000 or more eggs over her life. Optimum temperatures for the fleas life cycle is 70 F – 85 F and optimum humidity is 70%.


Why should you be concerned about fleas?

Fleas feed on a variety of warm blooded vertebrates including dogs, cats, humans, chickens, rabbits, squirrels, rats, ferrets and mice. Fleas are a nuisance to their hosts causing an itching sensation, which in turn may result in the host attempting to remove the pest by biting, pecking, scratching, etc. Fleabites generally cause the formation of a slightly raised, swollen itching spot with a single puncture point at the center (similar to a mosquito bite). Flea bites can lead to hair loss and biting by the animal, and in severe cases can cause anemia.

How can you treat fleas for your pet?

In pets, the treatment is best if the integrated pest management is achieved by targeting fleas during at least two separate life stages, with at least two separate molecules. This is typically achieved using an adulticide to kill adult fleas and an insect development inhibitor, such as lufenuron, or insect growth regulator, such as methoprene, to prevent development of immature stages. Frontline Plus is a recommended choice for treating a flea infestation on your pet because its an adulticide and an insect growth regulator. Another recommended product is Sentinel Spectrum which has lufenuron in it that acts as an insect growth regulator that interrupts the flea breeding cycle. Adult fleas that feed on an animal treated with Sentinel Spectrum will produce eggs or larvae that do not develop to the adult stage. Therefore reducing the number of fleas in the environment. An adulticide would be recommended with the use of Sentinel Spectrum.
Combating a flea infestation in the home takes patience because for every flea found on an animal, many more could be developing in the home. The environment should be treated with a fogger or spray insecticide containing an insect growth regulator , such as pyriproxyfen or methoprene to kill eggs and pupae, which are quite resistant against insecticides. Not only should you treat the inside of the home, but also the surrounding yard should be treated as well.
I use Sentinel Spectrum on my dogs because not only does it interrupt the flea breeding cycle, it prevents heartworm disease and also treats intestinal parasites.

By: Amy Tracy – Veterinary Assistant