by Andrea Mykrantz, CVT
Flea activity in the Midwest tends to die off after we get a few good freezes under our belt. Unfortunately, lots of people stop using their flea preventives when the weather turns cool. What they don’t realize is that fleas LOVE the cooler fall weather. Those nasty critters become really active and that means they are super excited to jump on your pets, or even on to you, in the hope that you will shuttle them to a delicious meal. That delicious meal is inside your home, possibly sharing your bed, it’s your cat or your dog, which could be woefully unprotected against the vicious feeding and reproductive cycle of the common flea.
Picture this – You have an inside/outside cat, we’ll call him Pickle. One beautiful September morning, Pickle heads out for his usual backyard recon. The skies are blue, the sun is warm, and the changing leaves are falling lazily to the ground. Pickle picks a favorite sunny spot near your biggest Oak tree in the backyard and curls up for his mid-morning cat nap. Amongst those beautiful fall leaves are tiny little nightmares just waiting for the perfect opportunity to jump onto a passing meal truck, a.k.a. Pickle! The adult fleas hop on to kitty, and he takes them in to the house. Pickle’s next stop is his favorite chair, where the sun pours in the window. Here he settles in for his late morning cat-nap. Meanwhile, the fleas are having a party! They are enjoying some delicious cocktails a Pickle-tini, a Pickle-rita, some Pickle on Draft and the next thing you know this party is really bumpin! All the lady fleas have started laying eggs! Next on Pickle’s itinerary for the day, he gets up, moseys in to the kitchen, has a bite of kibble and heads upstairs to take his Noon time cat-nap, which happens to be on your bed. Don’t forget about that flea party still happening on the Pickle Party Bus! As early afternoon rolls around, and Pickle is ready to move to his new napping destination, something new happens. When Pickle jumps off your bed, a bunch of those flea eggs fall off of him and into your carpeting. Now you have flea eggs hatching in your carpeting, and as I am sure you have quickly figured out, everywhere Pickle likes to spend his time. The flea larva lives off of whatever organic matter is available, and thrives within the darkness of your carpet. They eventually transform themselves into a cocoon (pupae stage) and wait. The adult fleas emerge from their cocoons when they are stimulated by movement and warmth, and hop back on the first host they can find Pickle! Obviously, whichever areas Pickle spends the majority of his time are the areas that will be the most heavily affected by fleas. The lifecycle is a constant nightmare, the eggs roll off Pickle’s body, into his bedding and resting areas, they hatch and eventually turn into pupae, Pickle’s movement over the same areas will cause the pupae to emerge, and the adult fleas hop back on to the Pickle Party Bus and life goes on! Considering that an adult female flea can lay upwards of 5000 eggs in her lifetime, you now understand how quickly those couple of adult fleas carried inside from a lazy afternoon nap in the yard can turn into a hellish nightmare!
As you can ascertain from this descriptive scenario, fleas can get out of control seemingly before you even realize you have a problem. If you have multiple cats, you have double trouble. If you have a dog, even a dog current on his flea preventive, he could bring a few fleas inside and give them to your indoor only, unprotected cats. Even you can carry fleas on your clothing into your house and give them to your pets! Fleas are just a huge, gross, nuisance! This is why at Best Friends Veterinary Hospital of Powell, Ohio we recommend using your flea control all year long, even on pets that don’t go outside! We see fleas all year long and it’s because of the flea’s lifecycle, specifically that pesky pupae stage. If you previously had a flea infestation, technically you could see a re-emergence at almost any time. Since those pupae can lay dormant for up to a year, they could just be laying in wait for the perfect opportunity! The moral of this story: keep your pets current on their prescribed flea preventive medication!!