Pets and Flea Prevention

Filed Under: Dogs, Cats, Parasites

Adult fleas are wingless, blood-sucking, external parasites of warm-blooded animals. The cat flea is the most common in the Southeast. It has more than fifty hosts, including domestic cats, dogs, opossums, cattle, skunks, squirrels, and the house mouse. From egg to adult, the cat flea can live up to twenty months indoors.

Distribution in the home

Habits of pets affect the distribution of fleas inside the house. Flea larvae are found primarily in carpeting near an area where a pet spends time sleeping or resting.
Suitable infestation sites:

  • Pet bedding and resting areas
  • Undisturbed locations around the sleeping or resting areas
  • Carpeted areas

Unsuitable infestation sites:

  • Areas in sunlight
  • Walkways or areas frequented by pedestrian traffic
  • Extremely wet or dry areas

Biology

Egg: Eggs are 1/32nd inch, white, and oval-shaped. They are deposited on the pet and fall to the floor. Eggs may hatch within 2-4 days, but sunlight, lack of moisture, and temperature will affect egg development.
Larva: The larvae are wormlike and have no eyes. They feed primarily on undigested blood feces of adults. Development depends on temperature, food, and relative humidity.
Pupa: In this stage the larva builds a cocoon around itself to confuse predators. It normally remains in this stage for 7-10 days. The pupa doesn’t feed.
Adult: A newly-emerged adult must feed on a warm-blooded animal within seven days. Average life is 11 days.

Preparation for Treatment

Effective flea treatment requires proper preparation. Homeowners play an essential part in controlling fleas. The lists below are actions you should take to ensure a successful flea treatment.
Interior Preparation:

  • Vacuum furniture and carpets, then dispose of the vacuum bag.
  • Wash or dispose of pet bedding.
  • Mop floors near pet sleeping and resting areas.
  • Remove items from floor, including closets and under beds.
  • Remove pet food.
  • Remove and clean litter box.
  • Treat pets for fleas.
  • Avoid treated areas at least four hours or until surface is dry.

Exterior Preparation:

  • Mow the yard.
  • Clean the kennel/dog run.
  • Remove pet food and bedding.
  • Provide access to crawlspace/basement.
  • Remove items such as kiddy pools and toys.
  • Remove pets from the area until the lawn is dry.

Dr. Stephen Gates is Director of Technical Services for Cook’s Pest Control.

Topics: flea prevention, fleas

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