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Managing a Flea Outbreak

Frustrating fleas- Outbreak Control

Nobody likes fleas they’re irritating, itchy and can spread worms and diseases in our pets.  Unfortunately all pets can fall victim to fleas, even if they stay indoors. So what do you do once you know you’ve got a problem? This article will explain a little bit about the lifecycle of this common pest and guide you through the best way to tackle an infestation.

Life cycle of the flea

Gaining control of an outbreak requires a bit of understanding about the life cycle of a flea. Here are the important facts:

  • Adult fleas lay eggs within 24hrs of biting and can lay up to 50 a day!
  • Eggs fall off the animal and develop into larvae in the environment.
  • The larvae actively crawl away from light. Once they’ve found a suitable hiding place (e.g. around skirting boards, cracks in the pavement etc.) they form a cocoon. This is known as the flea pupa.
  • Fleas can survive as pupae for many months (up to a year!) and will only emerge when conditions are just right. Warm temperatures, raised levels of carbon dioxide and high humidity are triggers for the new fleas to hatch as well as vibrations which may signify a passing host.
  • Adult fleas jump on to the animal and the cycle starts all over again.

How to treat an outbreak

Step 1– Treat the animals

Use a veterinary prescribed product to treat all your pets. Most products kill adult fleas within 24hrs as well as preventing eggs laid after treatment from hatching.

Step 2– Treat the environment

Ninety five percent of the flea population live in the environment! Without treating the environment getting on top of the problem can take many times longer. A home insecticide spray should be used to kill the larval stage of the lifecycle. Focus on the areas where your pet spends most of their time. Warning! – Before spraying make sure all people and pets (including small furries and fish) have been removed from the area.

Unfortunately fleas in the pupal stage of the lifecycle aren’t destroyed by this treatment and must hatch into adults before they can be killed. To encourage the fleas to hatch sooner and eliminate any eggs you can:

  • Vacuum more regularly than normal.
  • Encourage a warm, humid environment by hanging damp towels over the radiators.
  • Allow pets access to all rooms to ‘hoover’ up any fleas.
  • Regularly wash your pets bedding at 60°C for over 10 mins.

Step 3– Prevent further outbreaks

Make sure your pet is always treated within the recommended period. Even a week’s delay is enough for eggs or fleas to be brought into the house and begin an infestation.

Flea treatment FAQs

What’s the problem with non-prescribed products?

Non-prescription products aren’t as potent as prescription products and if applied incorrectly, can even be toxic. Veterinary staff are the experts in flea prevention and can provide expert advice on application to help find the product that’s right for you.

My pet doesn’t go outdoors how can they have fleas?

Flea eggs and pupae can be brought into the house on footwear and clothing. It only takes a few fleas to start an infestation.

Why do I still see fleas even after a vet prescribed treatment?

No flea product acts as a repellent. Once a flea has jumped onto your pet it will take up to 24hours to die. If the environment hasn’t been treated new fleas will hatch and jump onto your pet. In addition many products will cause the fleas to slow down making them easier to spot.

Why is it so important that my pet is treated regularly?

If pets are not treated at the correct intervals throughout the year, once the product has worn off, fleas that jump on to your pets will survive and be bought into the home. Check with your vet for the correct interval for your chosen product.

Do I need to treat my pet in winter as well?

Yes, a combination of central heating and mild winters allow fleas to survive year round. We recommend continuing with treatment throughout the year to prevent outbreaks.