Flea math is a complicated equation that may not make much sense, but explains why your pet and home can be overwhelmed with fleas for months on end. This pesky parasite has four life stages that can be completed in only a couple of weeks or many months, depending on your home’s humidity and temperature. To understand the total flea population in your home and on your pet, look at this equation:
Flea eggs (50%) + flea larvae (35%) + flea pupae (10%) + adult fleas (5%) = Total flea population
As you can see, those fleas you see jumping on your furry pal or attacking your ankles are only a tiny portion of the overall population. When factoring in temperature and humidity, you may be stuck battling a flea infestation for months without appropriate prevention. To highlight the importance of year-round flea prevention for all your pets, check out this all-too-common flea infestation scenario.
Fergus’ flea fiasco
Fergus the Irish wolfhound was a gentle, calm beast, who loved nothing more than snoozing in shady areas outdoors to escape the California heat, while his family enjoyed their nightly supper cookout. He also shared his home with a ferret friend, and a newly rescued shy stray cat.
Each night at bedtime, Fergus claimed his spot in the center of the bed between his adult humans, which had been his area since he was a small pup, and he wasn’t giving it up. One night, in the middle of the night, the bed began to shake, and, despite San Diego not being known for severe earthquakes, his owners awoke in a panic.
They checked on their children, who were still fast asleep, yet the loud thumps of a shaking bed were still coming from the master bedroom. Returning to the scene, they found Fergus frantically scratching, licking, and chewing, and making the entire bed rattle. Relieved to realize there was no earthquake, and the shaking was their 200-pound wolfhound, they crawled back into bed to try to return to sleep.
The next morning—after a scant few minutes of shut-eye—they found Fergus had turned into an itchy, hot mess overnight. Worried about the sores on their pet’s skin, they called Cote Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment.
Our team saw Fergus that same day and, during his physical exam, discovered a startling amount of fleas hiding in his wiry fur. After closely examining his records, we discovered that Fergus was a month overdue for his flea preventive, which explained how the tiny bloodsuckers had managed to hitch a ride on the wolfhound.
After cleaning up Fergus’ hot spots and refilling his flea preventive prescription, and with firm instructions to set a monthly reminder to administer flea prevention, Fergus and his family went home to tackle their lurking flea infestation. Remember, the adult fleas living on Fergus were only 5% of the total flea population in the home.
Fergus’ family followed our instructions to battle the flea life stages living in their home, along with administering the preventive on-time for their dog. However, they were still struggling with fleas, and could not figure out why. Insistent that Fergus’ flea preventive was not working, they called our hospital to discuss their problem. We verified that Fergus was receiving the correct dose for his size, since he needed two separate flea preventives to achieve efficacy for his weight, and that his family had performed the proper house treatment with an insect-growth-regulator (IGR) product.
During our conversation, we discovered the problem—Fergus’ family had failed to administer flea treatment to their dog’s furry siblings, the rescued kitty and the ferret. We emphasized the importance of treating all household pets for at least three months to break the flea life cycle, since despite being less-than-ideal hosts, ferrets can serve as flea reservoirs.
Three months later, Fergus returned for his annual wellness visit. His fur had grown back over his hot spots, and we found nary a flea. Our team discussed each pet’s comfort level, and how year-round flea prevention was necessary to ensure no repeat infestation. Fergus’ family understood the importance of flea prevention for every pet, since fleas are opportunistic and find a meal wherever they can. With the help of a high quality, year-round flea preventive, we never saw Fergus for a flea-related hotspot again.
Flea prevention options for your pet
With the flea’s impressive life cycle, keeping your furry pal on a flea prevention plan year-round is essential for preventing an infestation. Remember, you must administer flea preventive to every household pet, to avoid hidden populations lurking on your indoor-only cat. Several flea prevention options are available, and one is sure to work well for your four-legged friend. They include:
- Oral flea products — Oral flea preventives can be a chew or tablet administered monthly or every three months, and are often paired with tick or heartworm control.
- Topical flea products — Topical flea prevention products are a liquid administered on and absorbed through your pet’s skin. These products come in monthly or quarterly applications, and can include tick and heartworm prevention.
- Collar flea products — While flea collars are not typically effective, some veterinary-grade products can provide effective flea and tick prevention for months.
Need help choosing the best flea preventive for your furry pal? Talk to our Cote Animal Hospital team about your options to keep these pesky parasites at bay.