DTY Flea
Back to Basics: A Flea Primer
Flea management—especially when it comes to pets—means understanding both the pest and the treatments.


Fleas are a resilient, or more accurately, cyclically resurgent pest. Keeping ahead of the flea game requires keeping up with flea biology. And keeping up with flea biology requires going back to basics.

Basic Biology

Conditional to climate, fleas may be a year-round or seasonal challenge. Fleas flourish when weather patterns are warm and humid. Wherever hosts and an infestation exist, companion animals will pick up fleas. Such hosts are other people’s pets or urban wildlife species.

Upon reaching the adult stage, fleas spend virtually all of their lifetime on the animal. Within 24 hours of host selection, female fleas begin placing eggs (up to 50 eggs/day). Eggs are placed and shaped to allow falling from the pet and onto the floor or furniture (especially pet bedding or frequented indoor and outdoor areas). Upon emergence from eggs, and prior to feeding, larvae migrate into carpets, under furniture, or into soil. After spinning cocoons, flea pupae can lie dormant (inactive) for weeks prior to emerging as adults. This allows fleas to infest or re-infest pets. Dependent upon environmental factors such as temperature and humidity, the flea life cycle ranges from 12 days to 6 months. Adult fleas are able to move rapidly through a pet’s coat.

Basic Diagnosis, Risks, and Significance

Initially, a pet owner may be unaware of fleas infesting their animal(s). During this time, flea infestation increases to the point the pet is experiencing pathology and suffering. Symptoms of flea infestation include mild redness to severe itching, which can lead to open wounds and secondary skin infections (“hot spots”).

“Flea dirt” may be the first thing observed on a pet. These accumulations within the pet’s coat are flea droppings (fleas feeding on the blood of the animal). Additionally, adult fleas and eggs may be observed. Even though fleas may not be observed infesting the pet, they can still be on the animal and within the environment.

Anemia may result in young or small pets experiencing heavy flea infestations as fleas bite animals and suck or ingest blood. Allergy to flea saliva may develop and result in flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Pets constantly and severely itch. Pet behavior can change for the worse. Additionally, tapeworms can infect pests if fleas containing tapeworm eggs are ingested (usually through increased grooming using teeth). Inhabitants experience flea bites within areas of moderate to severe infestations.

Basic Management

Based upon the needs of the pet(s), pet owner, and severity of infestation, a veterinarian should be consulted. During the flea season, pets at risk for fleas should be preventively treated using professional on-pet applications, such as Petcor Flea Spray.

Treating only the pet will not eliminate the infestation, since the majority of the flea’s life cycle is spent off of the animal. If only adult fleas are eliminated and eggs, larvae, and pupae remain, pets will become re-infested, starting the cycle all over again.

To eliminate a flea infestation, a pest management professional (PMP) must be teamed with the veterinarian to properly coordinate structural pest management with pet medical treatment. The PMP must ask questions and take notes to properly facilitate an IPM based program.

  • Interview the pet owner and inhabitants to determine pet resting and sleeping areas (a structural map indicating high density immature stages can be created for targeted cleaning and product applications).
  • Use the IPM process to effectively eliminate the infestation (inspection and investigation, identification, establishing threshold levels, implementing two or more control measures (cultural, physical, mechanical, and chemical), and evaluation of effectiveness).

Prior to any product applications, floors and furniture must be thoroughly cleaned and vacuumed. Infested clothing, beds, and bedding must be thoroughly cleaned and debris accumulations removed. Other considerations might include lawful removal of bird nests and labeled treatment of the areas. Additionally, where flea infestation has occurred as a result of a rodent infestation, suitable trapping, labeled rodenticides, and exclusion practices must be used.

Treatments should be carried out using a properly labeled insecticide incorporated with an insect growth regulator (IGR). When professionally applied to surfaces where fleas are found, such as pet resting and sleeping areas, carpets, and upholstered furniture, Precor prevents adult flea emergence for up to 7 months

PMP’s Direct To You provides pest management professionals with educational refreshers on timely and critical topics essential to operational success. This content is not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney or insurance professional licensed where you live. Look for the content-rich PMP Direct To You archives at mypmp.net/direct-to-you-archive.


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