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Heartworm, Fleas and Ticks. Oh My!

Understand the extent of a flea problem and how to address it.

The Bad News

Not only are fleas annoying and kind of gross, but they can also be harmful to pets. Animals can contract a number of diseases from fleas. And some pets develop an allergy to the fleas’ saliva that causes such extreme irritation that the animal damages their fur and skin trying to get relief.

When you have seen one flea, you have not seen them all. For every one bug that you see, there are hundreds more eggs, larvae and pupae that will develop into adult fleas. These young critters live on your pet—and possibly any humans who live in the house as well.

Four Stages of Life

Fleas have four main stages of life. As adults, they can lay 25–40 eggs per day after feeding on their host. These eggs fall off the host and hatch into larvae after two to five days. Under ideal conditions (warm and dry), larvae will make a cocoon and grow into a pupa in 5 to 18 days. Once a pupa, it takes three to five days to mature into an adult and start its search for a host.

Laying in Wait

However, pupae can stay in the cocoon for up to one year waiting for the right time to emerge, when climate, temperature and the availability of a host are just right. Once the time is right, the pupa can quickly mature into an adult flea.

Because there are four stages in the fleas’ life cycle, you need to treat an infestation at each stage in order to control the problem. Read on to learn some simple steps you can take to eradicate fleas at each stage of life.

Getting Control - The Adult Stage

This stage is when most pets and people notice a flea problem. Often you can see the fleas, and pets will start to scratch and chew at the pests as they bite. If you want to confirm whether fleas are present, remember that they are easier to spot on your pet's lower belly, where there is little to no hair.

As soon as you see fleas, or suspect that your pet has them, you want to inhibit further reproduction by killing the adults and rendering the existing eggs sterile (i.e., unable to hatch). The best way to do these two things is with insecticides, such as: Comfortis, Trifexis or Activyl.

These oral or topical treatments often rid the animal of pests within a day or two. However, this step is just the beginning of the flea elimination process. You need to make sure that the fleas’ life cycle is broken, which means going after the eggs, larvae and pupae in your pet's environment.

What is Next?

Next week I will talk about how to clean up the environment so that you and your pet are flea free for life. In the meantime, if you have any questions about fleas, ticks or heartworm, leave me a comment.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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