Methods Of Flea Control

Flea control is very important for your pet's health. The flea is the single most common cause of skin and coat problems in dogs. There are 11,000 kinds of fleas which can transmit specific disease like tapeworm and heartworm or smaller parasites onto your dog. The common tapeworm, for example, requires the flea as an intermediate host for completion of its life cycle. A flea problem is an environmental problem, not a dog problem. For every adult flea you see, there are literally thousands of immature stages of the flea's life cycle in your carpet, furniture, cracks and crevices.

Traditional flea-control measures concentrated on killing the adult flea and have no effect on the many other life stages. If you only concentrate your flea-control methods on killing the adults, you will NEVER get rid of fleas. For every adult you kill, there are hundreds of eggs, larvae, pupae and preadults waiting for the chance to be the next in line. You should understand the stages of the flea's life cycle and the timing and environmental factors that effect this life cycle, as well as the products that control each level of this life cycle, before you can effectively control fleas.

The life cycles of all fleas are basically the same. They consist of six stages - egg, 3 larval stages, pupa and adult (male or female). The general cycle is illustrated here using the specific life cycle of Ctenocephalides, which contains the two species, C. canis and C. felis.

Adults are the only flea stages spending most of their time on a host. They leave the host occasionally and usually only when one host makes contact with another. All other flea stages - eggs, larvae and pupae - are found in the immediate environment of the host. In dogs and cats this would primarily include places in the home and kennel used for resting and sleeping. Therefore, by far the greatest majority of fleas are found concentrated in the host's environment as eggs, larvae, pupae and newly emergent adults and only a small proportion of the total flea population is found on a host as feeding, reproducing adults plus newly laid eggs and hatched larvae that have not dropped off. It takes just a quick look at the flea's life cycle to see why control must be on several levels. A female flea can lay hundreds of eggs and these will become adults in less than 3 weeks.

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Treating the Indoor Environment

The battle begins with a very thorough vacuuming. Use the crack and crevice tool and get in all the corners. Even vacuum hardwood and tile floors. Be sure to immediately throw the vacuum bag away. It will contain thousands of flea eggs, larvae and pupae that may hatch and re-infest your home. Next cover your aquarium, turn your air conditioner off, ceiling fans off, couch pillows up on end, take the bird and the cat to Grandma's, send Rover to the neighbor's and you and the kids go see a movie. Be sure to buy enough foggers for your size of home. Usually there will some information on the side label of the fogger that will help you determine how many you need. Point the fogger away from you and set it off. Carefully set the fogger on the floor in the middle of the room and get out. One by one set them off and exit the room. Most foggers contain only an adulticide (agent that kills adult fleas). Immature preadults, larvae, pupae and eggs are not affected. Some of the newer foggers also contain an IGR or insect growth regulator. This non-toxic compound works at the larvae level and prevents development of one stage to another. Some people report a worse flea problem after sing the IGR foggers. Don't worry about this. It only occurs in severe infestation problems, and if it happens, simply re-fog your house with adulticide-only foggers in about 2 weeks.

flea life cycle

Treating the Outdoor Environment

Mow and edge the yard very well. Fleas and ticks love tall grass. It is the perfect breeding ground and serves as a constant source of re-infestation for your environment. Once you have a neat yard, use a yard- and kennel-type spray and follow the label directions exactly. Some sprays require you to wet the lawn first, then apply the chemical, then wet the lawn again. Other need to be applied with a special applicator on a special setting. These chemicals are safe, but many of them are still toxic chemicals, so read carefully and don't use the product in any other way.

Treating the Dog

There are literally hundreds of products with which to bathe, dip, powder, spray, comb and brush fleas away. Some work better than others. Purchase well-recognized brands and only products designed for your type of pet. Begin with a good bath. Use a mild pet shampoo that contains some flea-killing or repelling ingredients. Such common and safe ingredients are pyrethrums and d-Limonene. In the case of a mild flea infestation, this may be all that is needed. In the case of moderate or severe infestations, you will now need to dip your pet. The next day or two, place a flea collar on the pet. Yes, flea collars are very effective when used as a part of this overall flea-control program. Some special flea collars now contain IGR compounds, and this is a real plus. Flea eggs that contact the collar will be unable to hatch. Use sprays on your pet on an as-needed basis. For example, when you see a flea and it is between bath time, give your pet a few sprays of a mild on-pet spray. Give your dog a few squirts of the spray before you head out for a walk or to the park. Don't overdo this spraying and don't rely on the spray alone, just as you should not rely on flea collars alone. Also, do not soak your dog with these sprays.

After you have done a good job killing adult fleas and have applied the IGRs in your home, have mowed and sprayed your yard and have bathed and dipped your dog, you need to undertake a few preventive steps. Dusting your pet's sleeping area with a good flea powder is a good idea. The use of the on-pet sprays before a walk in the park is good prevention, and the use of insect growth regulators (IGRs) is an advanced way to prevent a problem with fleas in the future. Prevention also involves the use the sodium borate compounds in the carpet. These naturally occurring chemicals are safe for children and pets and last in your carpet for almost a year. They are dusted on, brushed in and do not leave a residue. They work at the larval stage, much like the IGRs.

Spinosad is safe and effective for the treatment of dog and cat infestations and for the prevention of Pulex irritans (human flea), dog and cat flea infestations in shepherd dogs living in close proximity to sheep.

Simparica™, Zoetis against fleas on dogs starts killing fleas within three to four hours after treatment. A single oral treatment of Simparica resulted in the complete cessation of egg-laying for 35 days. This rapid kill of fleas and inhibition of reproduction were confirmed in a simulated-home environment where the existing infestations were reduced by >95% within two weeks of the first treatment and eliminated from the dogs after two monthly doses.3 The same doses provided robust efficacy (>99%) for over 35days against and multiple species of ticks.4


  1. Dr. Jim's Animal Clinic for Dogs. Jim Humphries, D.V.M.
  2. Parasites and Parasitic Diseases of Domestic Animals. Dr. Colin Johnstone, University of Pennsylvania
  3. Evaluation of the speed of kill, effects on reproduction, and effectiveness in a simulated infested-home environment of sarolaner (Simparica™) against fleas on dogs. Six RH1, Becskei C2, Carter L3, Gale B4, Young DR5, Mahabir SP6, Chapin S6, Myers MR6. Vet Parasitol. 2016 May 30;222:23-7. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2016.02.026.


  1. Concentrations of strontium, barium, cadmium, copper, zinc, manganese, chromium, antimony, selenium, and lead in the liver and kidneys of dogs according to age, gender, and the occurrence of chronic kidney disease. Nadine Paßlack et al.
  2. A field trial of spinosad for the treatment and prevention of flea infestation in shepherd dogs living in close proximity to flea-infested sheep. Manolis N. Saridomichelakis et al.
  3. Discovery of sarolaner: A novel, orally administered, broad-spectrum, isoxazoline ectoparasiticide for dogs. McTier TL1, Chubb N2, Curtis MP2, Hedges L2, Inskeep GA2, Knauer CS2, Menon S2, Mills B2, Pullins A2, Zinser E2, Woods DJ2, Meeus P2. Vet Parasitol. 2016 May 30;222:3-11. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2016.02.019.

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