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When a flea problem is identified, there is a lot that needs to be considered. First, a thorough physical exam is warranted for your pet to address any allergies, anemia (low red blood cell count) or skin infections. Your veterinarian can give you the best advice on treating your pets and your environment and they can prescribe the best medications to help with the problem.
In order for a pet to have fleas, emerging fleas must be somewhere on the premises. Direct transfer of fleas between pets is an uncommon to a rare occurrence. Fleas that are currently seen on pets and in their homes, have come from flea eggs laid 3-8 weeks ago. The initial few fleas that a pet has acquired mate within hours and the females start laying eggs within the first 24 hours. Eggs hatch within 1-10 days.
Each female flea on the animal produces up to 40-50 eggs per day and can produce up to 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. Fleas deposit their eggs into the hair/coat of the pet and the eggs fall off of the hair/coat into the surrounding environment where they develop into adult fleas within a few weeks. By the time the pet owner reacts and takes the pet to the veterinarian, emerging fleas are already present into the home and protected outdoor areas.
Over the next 3-8 weeks, the flea eggs already in the premises develop into adult fleas. Adult fleas emerge when stimulated by cues, such as environmental vibrations. The adult flea becomes a continuous parasite of dogs and cats and does not willingly leave the host. It must be mechanically removed or effectively treated. If untreated, adult fleas can live up to 120 days. It may take several weeks to achieve complete flea elimination!
The overriding concept of flea control is to force fleas into "extinction" in a localized environment by preventing reproduction. A few fleas may die within minutes, but fleas may live for 6-12 hours more and consume blood before they are killed by topical products. A few flea sightings on pets may be noted for up to 8 weeks or occasionally longer.
As fleas emerge and jump onto treated pets, most of the fleas are killed by the residual adulticide (flea and tick preventative). Because no new eggs are being deposited onto the premise, the flea population is driven to extinction.
As soon as the infestation is eliminated, it is recommended to continue treatments or a prevention program. Placing the pet on a continuous longterm preventative program reduces recurrence of active infestations. All household pets should be treated as well as the environment. And remember, one application will not immediately rid the animal of all fleas!
Unstimulated adults can emerge over extended periods of time, convincing the pet owner that control efforts didn't work. This is particularly true when flea eggs are in a location where the pet spends a lot of time (under the bed, on the carpet, the dog's pet bed, etc.) This is also true with cooler, drier climates. Cooler drier climates result in longer life cycles causing adults to emerge over a longer period of time. Warmer humid climates support shorter flea life cycles. Therefore, this is why we see more fleas in the summer!