The Common Enemy: The Flea

For every pet owner, the dreaded enemy number one is the flea.  Flea infestation of your beloved pet is irritating to them, gross to us, and also can cause blood-borne disease!  Oftentimes, flea infestation causes embarrassment among us pet owners.

There is an incorrect perception that if you have fleas, you must be a gross and untidy person.  That is simply not true!  The truth is that fleas share our world.  Like other insects, they hibernate over the winter, and become more active during warm weather.  Fleas only need 2 days over 40 degrees to hatch out and become active.  As the spring develops into summer, they reproduce and by the fall, they are at their highest levels in the year.  Fleas can continue to be active if sheltered from freezing (i.e. indoors).  Fleas love our cats and dogs and choose to live and feed on them because the cat and dog body temperature is higher than that of humans.

When you see a flea on your pet, that is the adult phase of their life cycle.  Adults only represent 5% of the problem in your home if you find fleas on your pet!  95% of the flea population is in the less mature phases:  the pupa, larva, egg phases.

Prevention is key.  There are many available flea prevention products on the market today.  Some products work great, others not so great.  When you are deciding what to use to protect your pet, listen to your veterinarian and decide together what will be best.  Be cautious with over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications as they are most likely to cause reactions.  And never, ever, use a dog product on a cat.  I currently use Revolution for my cat, and Frontline for my dog.  Next year (when I run out of Frontline) I plan on switching my dog to Nexguard.  I also prefer to protect my pets year-round.  Some of the worst flea infestations I diagnose are on pets in the winter months.  The fleas are at their lowest levels in the winter, but they don’t go away.

If you already have an infestation, hard work is ahead to clear your home of the pesky critters.  I know, I’ve been there.  My pets got fleas 8 years ago when I lapsed (i.e. forgot) to apply their monthly preventative.  The first line of defense is to get your pet on a monthly preventative.  These products will actively kill any flea that your pet comes in contact with.  Your home can be decontaminated, and there are many different approaches to take.  You may need to call an exterminator.  Sometimes, more natural methods can take care of the home infestation.  Please contact your veterinarian to discuss methods that will work for you.

Commonly heard misconceptions in the veterinary clinic about fleas:

  1. But my cat never goes outside!  Well, you do, and you can bring fleas into your cat.  Also, 25% of all indoor-cats had fleas in one study!
  2. I’ve had dogs for 25 years and we’ve never had fleas!  Well, fleas can happen at any time.  It means that you have been lucky for 25 years, and now you’re not lucky any more.
  3. But I keep my house and animals really clean!  Of course you do!  Fleas can happen to anyone no matter how clean they are.

Hang in there!  Together we can fight our common enemy – the Flea!


Roscoe Village Animal Hospital recommends the following…

Frontline Plus & Nexgard for dogs

Revolution for cats