By Dr Anthony Down BVSc (Hons 1)
As the weather warms up it is a good time to start thinking about flea control.
Old flea products
In the past flea control was a problem because we only had short acting insecticides such as flea powders, flea rinses and shampoos. These products kill the adult fleas that are on the pet at the time of treatment. The problem is that pets are then rapidly reinfected. To increase their effectiveness we used to combine them with foggers which we released inside the house to kill the flea larvae, and yard sprays which did the same job outside.
External Spot-on products
Another group of products that have successfully combated flea infestations are long acting spot-on type insecticides. The good brands of these not only kill adult fleas for four weeks, they will also kill any pupae or larvae the pet comes into contact with. They work well because they kill the adult flea before it can bite your pet or lay any eggs. The drawback however for spot-on products is their effectiveness can diminish over time particularly if you regularly wash your dog or your dog enjoys swimming.
The latest Flea products
The next generation of flea products are convenient and highly palatable chewable tablets. One simple chew will protect your dog against fleas for one month or 3 months depending on the brand administered. Chewable treatments start killing within 8 hours and continue to effectively kill fleas for the prescribed life of the dose. Warrnambool Veterinary recommends two of the latest chewable products. Bravecto and NexGuard. Both Bravecto and NexGuard can be given to pups as young as eight weeks of age weighing greater than 2kg. They also protect against ticks, including paralysis ticks, which are found along the East coast of Australia in warm and humid climates and are endemic in Queensland. If you are planning to travel with your pet protection against ticks is a must!
Bravecto delivers 3 months flea and tick protection for your dog in a single highly palatable dose. Bravecto kills adult fleas and newly emerged fleas before they can lay eggs and is effective for 3 months – covering the life cycle of the flea, therefore it is not necessary to use other insecticides to kill fleas in the environment. Bravecto is also safe for use in breeding, pregnant and lactating dogs.
The flea cycle
The flea lifecycle is complex. There are four stages to this life cycle:
- Eggs - Flea eggs are pearly white and about half a millimetre long, they are laid on your pet then fall into the bedding, dirt or carpet around the pet. Flea eggs hatch in 2 - 10 days depending on temperature and humidity.
- Larvae - Flea larvae hatch out of the eggs, they burrow deep into the carpet or bedding to avoid sunlight and after 5 - 11 days they form a cocoon and become pupae.
- Pupa - The cocoon of the pupa is sticky and becomes coated in dust to camouflage itself, In warm and humid conditions the pupa becomes an adult flea in 8 - 9 days. Young adult fleas may remain in the cocoon for up to 5 months and during this time they are resistant to environmental insecticides. The adult flea emerges from the cocoon in response to vibration and heat.
- Adults - After emerging the adult flea must find a host, if they do not have a meal of blood within a few days they will die. About 36-48 hrs after her first meal the female flea will begin laying eggs and she will lay approximately 100 eggs every day. In summer time the entire lifecycle of a flea from egg to adult can be completed in 14-21 days. This is why you can rapidly develop a bad flea problem.
What harm to fleas do?
Adult fleas bite pets sucking their blood, although each flea only takes a small amount of blood it is possible to get significant
blood loss in heavily infected animals. Particularly in old or young pets with large numbers of fleas the blood loss can be severe enough to cause sickness and in rare cases pets can die. Adult fleas can bite any animal but they can only breed after biting their correct host. When they bite people there is a local irritation which appears as a small red spot. Fortunately the fleas will not continue to live on people, they just bite us and jump off. Fleas can move very quickly and they rapidly move away from light so they are often hard to detect. If your pet is scratching but you can not see any adult fleas have a look for “flea dirt”. Flea dirt is actually flea faeces, it looks like small grains of black pepper, and if you see flea dirt you know your pet does have fleas. If you think the dirt might be dirt not flea dirt, crush it on a wet piece of blotting paper. When you do this the flea dirt will appear red because it still contains blood!
Some pets become allergic to fleas. These animals react to flea saliva so that they develop a severe itch even if they are bitten just once. Allergic animals chew and scratch at themselves causing hair loss and serious skin damage. This is known as “Flea allergy dermatitis”. This Flea allergy dermatitis was once extremely hard to control because we could only kill the adult fleas but with the latest products available good control is possible.
Get the right advice about what product is best for your dog. Drop in and talk to our friendly receptionists about our extensive range of flea control products, including the latest tasty chews, and get the right advice about which product best suits you and your dog. Our product knowledge and competitive prices will make sure you get the best product at the best price.
Check out our Facebook page for your chance to win a six pack of NexGuard for your dog! Go to facebook.com/ warrnamboolvet