My Pet Has Fleas! Now What?

My Pet Has Fleas! Now What?
June 9, 2021

There are many components that go into responsible pet ownership. A good foundation of pet health care is definitely part of caring for another critter. Besides pet wellness services like routine preventive examinations and vaccinations, Advantage Veterinary Center knows that parasite prevention is a large part of caring for our four-legged family members. 

Despite our best efforts, though, sometimes pet parasites are unavoidable. After all, these little critters have evolved to be pretty good at their job. If your pet gets fleas, all hope is not lost. Flea protection, prevention, and control are what we do best!

The Prevention Game

The flea is the epitome of an external parasite, hitching a ride and free-loading on many of our dog and cat patients. Their entire life cycle takes advantage of utilizing warm-blooded bodies in their environment to grow and feed.

Because fleas are such expertly engineered parasites, they reproduce quickly and the population of fleas can grow exponentially. A single female flea can lay up to fifty eggs in a day. Small and fast-moving, they are also difficult to detect, so it’s easy to see how one flea can turn into a whole lot in no time at all.

When it comes to fleas, prevention is a pet owner’s best defense. Our staff can recommend a safe and effective flea protection option for your pet that helps to stop the flea reproductive cycle in its tracks. By utilizing a quality flea prevention, you can minimize the chance that you will ever have to deal with fleas on your pet. 

Flea prevention failures do happen, though. While nothing is 100 percent, most flea prevention failures are not due to the product being ineffective, but rather user error. Common breaches include:

  • Not utilizing flea protection for all pets in the household (a rouge flea on your pant leg doesn’t discriminate against your indoor-only cat)
  • Forgetting to administer flea prevention as labeled
  • Stopping flea prevention in the winter (our temperatures in Missouri are not consistent enough to be sure no fleas are around)
  • Using over-the-counter options that may lack efficacy (and can be less safe)
  • Using products purchased from online sources that may be counterfeit

Knowing where common failures occur can help you to avoid them. Sometimes, though, things like your pet vomiting outside after giving them their monthly dose can result in failures that are out of our control. 

Flea Protection After the Breach

If you do find a flea on your pet or in your home, it is not the end of the world. It is a little more difficult to control fleas once present, but not impossible. 

Once fleas are identified as a problem, take a deep breath and:

  1. Call us for recommendations for specific flea protection products for your pets to put a halt to the flea life cycle
  2. Administer quality flea prevention to all pets in your household, repeating as recommended on label (it may take three consecutive months of treatment to kill all the eggs and larvae in the environment)
  3. Wash all bedding and washable items where your pet(s) spend time in hot water
  4. Vacuum your home well, concentrating on heavy pet traffic areas and taking out the vacuum bag/canister to empty
  5. For heavy flea infestations, consider indoor treatment recommended by pest professionals
  6. Consider treating your yard with an insecticide recommended by a pest control expert
  7. Consider using food-grade diatomaceous earth, especially outdoors, to help curb the flea life cycle (use caution to not inhale)

Consistency is key. Regular and persistent efforts will eventually result in flea control. 

Fleas and Pet Health

While it is appealing to prevent fleas just based on the fact that they are gross, it is also important to remember that they can certainly affect pet health. 

Flea infestations can result in itchy skin and hair loss, and for pets who are allergic to flea saliva, the resulting skin effects can be dramatic. 

Fleas can also carry a variety of parasites such as tapeworms, Bartonella henselae (cat scratch fever), and flea-borne typhus. Some of these diseases are also zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted to people. 
Good flea protection is essential to proper pet health care. Mounting a good defense is important, but knowing what to do should fleas gain the upper hand is also necessary. Please reach out to us if you need guidance. Pet health care, including flea protection, is what we do best.