When it comes to flea control of your pets while you are on the road, there are so many available options that it’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused as to what’s best for you and your pet.
By KELLY ZAMMIT
In order to limit the number of fleas in your motorhome, tent or caravan, it helps to know a little about the flea life cycle.
Adult fleas are so small that they can be difficult to detect, much less eliminate from your home. They feed on blood and then produce a staggering 40 to 50 eggs per day, up to 2,000 in their lifetime.
These eggs fall off and tiny larvae hatch in one to six days. Indoors, flea larvae live deep in carpeting or under furniture. Outside, they develop best in shaded areas, under leaves or in sandy environments. A mature larva transforms into a pupa inside a silk cocoon, and the adult flea will usually emerge in three to five weeks. However, a flea can wait inside the cocoon for up to 350 days until conditions are best for survival.
They are stimulated to hatch by body heat, movement and exhaled carbon dioxide.
The most resistant stages of the flea life cycle are the immature stages, with very few products able to kill flea eggs. However there are some simple things you can do to help reduce flea eggs in your environment such as washing pet bedding in water hotter than 60 degrees Celsius and rinsing in cold water with eucalyptus or lavender oil added. Vacuuming carpets and floorboards regularly removes some eggs but also
stimulates them to hatch so that you can then kill the fleas via the methods discussed below. Don’t forget to seal the vacuum bag in an air-tight bag before disposing of it, otherwise the fleas will hatch in the bag and jump out. If a flea infestation occurs, consider steam cleaning carpet, which kills off larvae as well, or using a flea bomb or fogger inside the house containing an insect growth regulator.
Once the fleas hatch, they are more susceptible to chemical attack. If you have a large flea problem or your dog is allergic to fleas, you will need a chemical product.
• There are monthly flavoured tablets available from your vet that will quickly kill any fleas that bite your dog before they are able to reproduce. Although they are conventional drugs, these are actually made from a natural product found in certain bacteria.
• Topical products involve applying a small amount of liquid to the back of your dog’s neck to kill fleas for the next month. If your dog swims a lot, this may reduce the efficacy as the chemicals are distributed in the oil on the dog’s coat. Another drawback is that small children or cats may touch the dog’s neck in the first 24 hours and get the product on their skin. Some of these topical liquids are toxic to cats so check with your vet before using these.
• There is also an oral tablet that will quickly kill any adult fleas that are on your pet at that one point in time, however it has no long-lasting effects and fleas can jump back onto your pet soon after.
If you have only a low flea burden then you may want to consider a gentler approach. Repellent herbs including fennel, sage and lemongrass can be planted near the kennel or cattery. Sprinkling lavender oil around bedding repels fleas and also smells great. Neem oil has been shown to help resist fleas in several ways including stopping them feeding, growing and breeding. It can be used as a spray every few days. Try adding 25ml of Neem oil to every 400ml of shampoo.
This overview should provide the starting point to enable you, with the help of your vet, to develop a tailored flea treatment plan for your pet and enjoy your travelling without itching and scratching.
Kelly Zammit is a veterinarian at All Natural Pet Care, Russell Lea NSW www.naturalvet.com.au