One of the worst things about this time of year is the increase
of fleas on pets, outside, and, possibly, in homes. Adult fleas
cause the most problems for pets. In order to become adult fleas,
the blood-sucking creatures need warm weather, between 70 and 80
degrees Fahrenheit, and about 70 to 80 percent humidity, said Dr.
Alison Diesel, lecturer in dermatology at Texas A&M University
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).
"Those ideal conditions are exactly what we are experiencing
during this time of the year, which is why we generally see more
fleas coming out in the spring," Diesel said.
She added that fleas can be present year-round in Texas because
there is not usually a "true winter."
Fleas can cause various problems for pets. Some animals,
for example, are allergic to an allergen in the flea saliva causing
the animal to have an allergic reaction. This causes the
animal to scratch, which could lead to a secondary bacterial skin
infection. If there is a large flea problem, anemia could be
a potential problem, especially among small animals that do not
have large amounts of blood. Fleas can also carry diseases
such as tapeworms or Bartonella, and infect both pets and
Amanda Friedeck, a veterinary technician at the CVM, said there
is no way to completely prevent fleas, but a key factor to
controlling fleas is breaking the life cycle.
"The best way to control fleas is to break the cycle. More
fleas lay more eggs. … The best treatment either kills the
adults or kills one of the juvenile stages," Friedeck said.
Diesel said the flea life cycle has four phases: the adult fleas
lay eggs, the eggs hatch into larvae, the larvae turns into pupae,
which, eventually, turn into adults.
"Ideally, targeting several phases of the flea lifecycle is
best, particularly when dealing with an infestation. The
easiest stage to target is the adult flea since these lives on the
pet. The other stages (eggs, larvae, pupae) are present in
the environment," Diesel said.
Both Diesel and Friedeck said the best way to determine
treatment of an animal's flea problem is to take them to a
veterinarian to discuss the best options and medications.
"Your pet's veterinarian can help recommend the most appropriate
product to help prevent fleas based on other factors (e.g. other
skin conditions, food allergies, etc.) as well as discuss the
appropriate way to administer the product (e.g. orally or
topically)," Diesel said.
Diesel suggested using a flea prevention that lasts the entire
month and is still effective if the pet gets wet.
"Using flea prevention every 30 days, or more frequently in some
situations, can provide the best protection from fleas biting your
pet, can kill adult fleas rapidly, and can prevent a flea
infestation from being established in your pet's environment,"
Diesel and Friedeck agreed that it is important to minimize an
animal's exposure to fleas by avoiding infested areas and pets
coming in contact with animals that have fleas such as wild
"There are some things which can be done to minimize exposure to
fleas: avoid known infested areas, do not allow your pet to come
into contact with wild animals or burrows, and protect areas of the
house where wild animals may enter to minimize wild animals from
establishing residency in the first place," Diesel said.
If fleas become a problem inside the house, Diesel and Friedeck
suggested vacuuming once a week.
"Vacuuming is a very good way to rid of fleas in the house, but
the bag must be thrown away and removed from the house," Friedeck
She added that if there is a large flea presence, there are
in-house treatments and exterminators.
"There are some in-house treatments and bombs, but they should
only be used in heavily burdened environments," Friedeck said.
Diesel suggested focusing on places where the pets spends most
of their time inside the house when bombing because that will
contain the most concentrated area of fleas.
"Don't forget under beds and furniture, behind curtains, and
along hallways connecting rooms when treating the house for
fleas. Again, it may be best to contact a professional
exterminator when there is a large flea burden present," she
In addition to treating animals and inside of homes, it may be
necessary to treat the outside environment. This can be done
by spraying areas of the yard that are high in flea population.
"This includes shaded areas, under trees and bushes, in dog
houses, under porches and decks. As with indoor control, when
the burden is high, a professional exterminator may be the most
help," Diesel said.
Diesel said the best strategy against fleas is to practice
year-round prevention by treating all pets with flea medicine as
well as treating inside and outside the home if an infestation is
"It is much easier to prevent fleas than to treat fleas," she
ABOUT PET TALK
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
viewed on the Web at /pet-talk.
Suggestions for future topics may be directed to email@example.com.