Family pets bring great happiness to our lives. However dogs, cats and their owners suffer great discomfort when fleas enter the picture, so here’s the scoop on managing them.
Fleas can be a year-round problem in our area. Fleas persist due to so many pets living indoors, providing an ideal climate for year-round breeding of this insect pest.
With recent breakthroughs in flea control, pets can lead happy pest-free lives.
Our worst flea pest is the cat flea ( Ctenocephalides felis ). Fleas need a blood meal to survive. Their favorite hosts around the house and yard are dogs, cats, squirrels and other warm blooded mammals. If people are being bitten by fleas in a house where pets are present then a very high population is present. For every six fleas seen, there are 300 adult fleas actually present. If animals are not present, fleas will opt to hop onto humans. They thrive best in indoor climates.
The presence of adult fleas is just the tip of the iceberg. There are actually many more flea eggs, larvae and pupa just waiting to become adults. Targeting only adult forms of fleas is not at all effective. Long-term, effective flea control is best achieved by use of products that target flea adults and their young.
Flea adult taking a blood meal, excreting bloody material that dries to become “flea dirt”.
New, safer, and more effective products aimed at controlling adult fleas on pets have made cat flea management without pesticide sprays, shampoos, and dusts feasible in most situations. Management of fleas on pets must occur in conjunction with regular, thorough cleaning of pet resting areas indoors and out. Once fleas infest a home, control will require a vigilant program that includes vacuuming, eliminating fleas on pets, and cleaning up and possibly treating shaded outdoor locations where pets rest.
On the Pet
Several types of products are available to control fleas on dogs and cats. The newer products are either applied topically to the body of the pet or provided orally.
If you administer oral or topical products early in the year before flea populations begin to build, the products can prevent fleas from establishing themselves in your home. Contact your veterinarian for advice in selecting the best flea-control product for your situation. Supplement the use of these products with good housekeeping in areas where the pet rests.
Flea Activity for Martinez, CA (94553)
On-pet Flea Treatment Products. New product innovations have made it possible to effectively, conveniently, and safely prevent flea populations from building up on pets. These products are more effective than the traditional insecticide collars, dusts, shampoos, and sprays. The spot-on formulations available from veterinarians are much easier to use than baths or sprays and are more acceptable to the animal and pet owner. Fleas in our area are showing signs of resistance to fipronil (Frontline, Pet Armor) and imidacloprid (Advantage). Newer products like Actyvil , Bravecto and Comfortis contain ingredients that fleas are responsive to.
With increased EPA concerns about adverse effects reported with the use of topical flea control products, it should emphasized that not all products are safe for all animals. Products containing permethrin and amitraz never should be applied to cats. Be sure to read labels carefully.
Systemic Oral Treatments. Two flea-control products are internal medications administered as a chewable pill. One newer product for dogs containing spinosad (Comfortis) is fast acting, providing protection for 30 days. The other is Bravecto. This fast acting medication which contains fluralaner, is effective for 90 days and also kills ticks. These oral treatments are especially appropriate for animals that swim or take frequent baths.
Flea Collars. Currently Seresto collars are the most effective for both dogs and cats. These collars provide flea and tick protection for 8 months.
Traditional Insecticide Products. Until recently, pet owners had to rely on products containing conventional insecticides (pyrethrins, permethrin, d-limonene, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, carbaryl, and naled) to control fleas on their pets. These products were formulated as soaps, shampoos, powders, dusts, spray-on liquids, and dips. Although many of these products still are available, they aren’t as effective to use as the on-animal treatments above. Some products aren’t labeled for cats. Be sure to read all labels carefully.
Nonchemical Treatments. Special metal flea combs are available that help effectively remove adult fleas from the coat of pets. Removing fleas can provide comfort to the animal and reduce flea breeding. Combing pets at regular intervals also is a good way to monitor the flea population and help you decide when other control measures might be necessary.
Studies have shown that neither Vitamin B1 (thiamine hydrochloride) supplements nor brewer’s yeast prevents fleas from feeding. Herbal collars and ultrasonic devices aren’t effective flea repellents either.
Indoors. Controlling cat fleas in buildings requires a variety of approaches. Before starting a control program, look through each room to determine areas where larval development occurs. Flea populations are highest in places where dogs or cats regularly sleep. You usually won’t find flea larvae in areas of heavy pedestrian traffic or locations that receive exposure to sunlight; they are likely to be present in areas where adult fleas have left dried blood and feces.
Sanitation. Thoroughly and regularly clean areas where you find adult fleas, flea larvae, and flea eggs. Vacuum floors, rugs, carpets, upholstered furniture, and crevices around baseboards and cabinets daily or every other day to remove flea eggs, larvae, and adults. Vacuuming is very effective in killing larvae in the carpet, picking up adults, and stimulating preemerged adults to leave their cocoons. Recent studies suggest that destroying the vacuum bags isn’t necessary. Launder pet bedding in hot, soapy water at least once a week. Thoroughly clean items you bring into the building, such as used carpets or upholstered furniture, to prevent these from being a source of flea infestation.
Insecticides. Several insecticides are registered for controlling fleas indoors. The most effective products also contain the IGR methoprene or pyriproxyfen. Use a hand sprayer or aerosol to apply insecticides directly to infested areas of carpets and furniture. Total release aerosols, or room foggers, don’t provide the coverage and long-term effectiveness of direct sprays unless they contain methoprene or pyriproxyfen. Treatments with insecticides other than IGRs often fail to control flea larvae, because the treatment material fails to contact them at the base of carpet fibers where they develop.
Spray carpets, pet sleeping areas, carpeted areas beneath furniture, baseboards, windowsills, and other areas harboring adults or larvae. Fleas will continue to emerge for about 2 weeks after treatment, because the spray doesn’t kill pupae. Continue to vacuum, and don’t treat again for at least several weeks.
HANDLING A FLEA EMERGENCY
If your home is heavily infested with fleas, take these steps to get the situation under control.
Inside the Home
- Locate heavily infested areas, and concentrate efforts on these areas.
- Wash throw rugs and the pet’s bedding.
- Vacuum upholstered furniture. Remove and vacuum beneath cushions and in cracks and crevices.
- Vacuum carpets, especially beneath furniture and in areas that pest frequent. Use a hand sprayer to treat all carpets with an insecticide that contains an insect growth regulator.
- Allow carpets to dry, then vacuum a second time to remove additional fleas the spray caused to emerge.
- Continue to vacuum for 10 days to 2 weeks to kill adult fleas that continue to emerge from pupal cocoons.
On the Pet
- Use a spot-on or a systemic oral treatment, which you can purchase from a veterinarian.
Outside the Home
- If you treat your pets with spot-on or oral treatments, you‘ll rarely need to spray outdoors.