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Flea Control


Mark Hale, DVM

1661 E. Mt. Gilead Rd.,

Bolivar, Missouri




            By far the most common problem clients ask for information on is flea control.  It has been estimated that American pet owners spend 500 million dollars on flea products each year—many of which do not work.

            Here are some facts about the flea life cycle that you should know:

1)                 Flea eggs are white and about the same size as a grain of sand.  These are laid on the pet and easily roll off into the carpet or bedding.  Eggs hatch in one to ten days into larvae.  These larvae move away from light (e.g. deeper into the carpet, under baseboards or furniture) and form a cocoon.  This stage can last from 9-174 days depending on humidity and temperature.  Under average conditions, the entire life cycle takes three to four weeks, but can take over one year.

2)                 Adult fleas have very powerful back legs that are used to jump onto a passing pet.  Reportedly they can jump as high as 13 feet.

3)                 Female fleas produce 40-50 eggs per day or up to 2,000 eggs in their lifetime.  This high rate of reproduction ensures there will always be fleas.  This also is why it is much better to prevent a flea infestation than to treat it after an explosive population increase.

            Using products that together kill the adult stages, as well as preventing development of the egg and larval stages, can effectively treat light infestations and/or prevent them from starting.  At this time the effective products for this are either Frontline Plus® or a combination of Advantage® and Program®.  Since Frontline Plus® is more economical and easier to use than the other two as a combination, it is usually the best choice.  These products must be used monthly for best control.  Beware of "copycat" products, as these are not as effective or as safe as the above mentioned ones.

            If heavier infestations are present, then other treatment must also be done.  Capstar® (a tablet) given weekly or Adams flea spray applied weekly can provide "rapid knockdown" to help the monthly products.  Environmental treatment is also a must.  Foggers are available that kill adults as well as larvae (check the label carefully!)  The right foggers used correctly can kill a flea population for up to seven months if no new fleas are brought in. Vacuuming the house thoroughly at least weekly helps remove eggs.  Be sure to dispose of the vacuum bags.  Treating the yard to prevent new introductions is also necessary. 

            For heavy persistent infestations, it is often best to hire a professional exterminator for environmental control.  They can use products not available over-the-counter and most provide written guarantees.

            Your veterinarian is a good source of information and will carry products which are effective as well as safe for you and your companions.