Flea Prevention 101

A Quick Guide on How to Safeguard Your Pets from Fleas. The scourge of fleas is a perennial concern for pets dwelling in warm climates. Conversely, in cooler regions, the arrival of spring marks the onset of the battle against these pesky critters.
pet flea
pet fleas

Statistics from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association indicate that the average pet owner spends nearly $200 on flea and tick control products. Approximately 70 percent of pet parents in the United States actively combat flea infestations, utilizing a range of treatments, including topical solutions, oral tablets, flea collars, and shampoos.

Get a Pet Insurance Quote

Detecting Fleas on Your Pet

Fleas, minuscule insects scarcely the size of a pinhead, can pose significant problems for your feline or canine companions. These agile parasites leap from one animal to another, with their bites often resulting in intense itching, particularly in pets sensitive to flea saliva. Excessive scratching can lead to skin infections.

If you harbor suspicions of a flea infestation, part your pet's fur and inspect the skin, with particular attention to areas with sparser hair, such as the belly or inner thighs. Fleas leave behind "flea dirt," appearing as black specks on the skin, essentially flea feces. To confirm the presence of fleas, place a sample on a wet paper towel, and if the spot turns red, your pet has fleas.

How Long Can Fleas Live on Your Pet?

Female adult fleas can thrive on your pet for several weeks and lay between 20 and 30 eggs daily. These eggs are then dispersed wherever your pet roams, indoors, on your carpet, bedding, and other surfaces.

Within a short span, these eggs develop into larvae, which subsist on nutrients like skin scales. Afterward, they encase themselves in cocoons, akin to caterpillars. Once they sense heat, vibrations, or even exhaled carbon dioxide — indicators of an animal's presence — the fleas emerge from their cocoons and latch onto a host.

This underscores the importance of treating both your pet and its surroundings. Numerous products are available to assist in keeping both your pet and your living space free from fleas.

Veterinary Flea Treatment Options

The majority of treatments are designed to eliminate adult fleas while they are on your pet. Four popular topical solutions are Advantage, Frontline Plus, K9Advantix, and Revolution. Be cautious about using products containing permethrins on cats, as they can be toxic. Consult your veterinarian to identify the most suitable product for your pet.

Program is an oral treatment administered monthly to dogs or cats or through injection every six months for cats. While it does not kill adult fleas, it effectively disrupts the life cycle by preventing egg hatching. Sentinel is another option, serving as an insect growth regulator that targets and exterminates eggs.

Non-prescription products, including powders, shampoos, collars, and sprays, help eliminate fleas but might not be as potent as prescription remedies. Regularly employ flea combs to swiftly identify an infestation.

At-Home Flea Prevention Options

While vacuuming your home cannot wholly eradicate all flea eggs, larvae, and cocoons, it aids in mitigating the issue (ensure you discard your vacuum bag immediately after use). Wash all pet-related bedding.

Consider employing a flea bomb or fogger to treat your household. Adhere to the instructions on the label, remove your pet's food, and cover aquariums before the treatment. Follow the recommended duration (typically around 3-4 hours), leaving your residence alongside all your pets.

Sustain vacuuming and laundering activities, as foggers do not eliminate larvae. If further fleas surface, repeat the bomb or fogger process in approximately three weeks. For severe infestations, engage a professional exterminator.

Treat your yard with an environmentally safe insecticide containing fenvalerate. Utilize sprays equipped with insect growth regulators.

The most effective approach to shield your pet from fleas and curtail itching is to combine preventive measures for your pet and your living environment while maintaining regular check-ups.

Pet Health Insurance Coverage

Flea prevention is a pivotal aspect of ensuring your pet's well-being. Pawdarling pet insurance policyholders submitted almost 218,000 routine care claims in the past year for flea prevention medications for dogs and nearly 12,000 for cats.

4 Health Issues Caused by Fleas in Dogs

Observing your beloved dog incessantly scratching due to pesky flea bites can be distressing. However, fleas pose more than just discomfort; they can be responsible for various health problems. Fleas have a history of transmitting diseases and contributing to various health complications in dogs.

To protect your furry friend from these issues, consider preventative measures and seek veterinary guidance for treatment if your dog exhibits signs of a flea-related disorder. Here are four specific health problems associated with fleas to be aware of:

Tapeworm Infestations

Tapeworms, long flat segmented worms, often inhabit the small intestines of animals, siphoning nutrients from their food. Fleas frequently carry tapeworm eggs, and when a dog inadvertently consumes a flea laden with these eggs during grooming, the eggs can develop into mature tapeworms within the dog's body.

While most dogs can survive a tapeworm infestation without severe complications, these invading worms can deprive your pet of essential nutrients, potentially leading to weight loss. Geriatric dogs, puppies, and immune-compromised pets face heightened risks of experiencing serious intestinal issues.

If your dog displays anal itching or irritation, scooting its bottom along the floor, a tapeworm infestation might be the cause. Consult your veterinarian for medications to eliminate the tapeworms and restore your dog's comfort.

Canine Bartonellosis

Fleas don't only carry parasites; they can also harbor harmful bacteria. One such bacterium, Bartonella, can infect dogs, cats, and other mammals, including humans, causing a severe disease known as Bartonellosis. Other carriers like ticks, lice, and sand fleas can also transmit Bartonella bacteria to animals.

Dogs afflicted with Bartonellosis may exhibit symptoms such as coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, eye and nose irritation, and lameness. This disease can manifest as various issues, including arthritis, lymph node inflammation, liver and spleen swelling, and even seizures.

If you suspect your dog has Bartonellosis, seek immediate veterinary evaluation and antibiotic treatment. To minimize the risk of your dog contracting this disease, implement a pest prevention regimen and keep your pet away from areas frequented by fleas and other carriers.


Fleas feed on their host animals' blood through bites. Although a single flea can only extract a minute amount of blood, recurring attacks by numerous fleas can cumulatively lead to anemia, characterized by a deficiency of red blood cells.

Anemia resulting from flea bites can be particularly hazardous for toy breeds, young puppies, and dogs already suffering from low red blood cell counts. Left unchecked, this condition can progress to severe illness and even death.

To safeguard your dog against this threat, consult your veterinarian for monthly preventative medications that kill adult fleas and prevent flea larvae from maturing. These preventive products may come in various forms, such as powders, shampoos, pills, or topical creams.

Contact Dermatitis

In addition to the initial bite damage, flea saliva can trigger an allergic reaction, prompting the immune system to release histamine to the bite site. These itchy, red welts are referred to as contact dermatitis.

Dogs experiencing contact dermatitis will instinctively scratch, lick, or chew the affected areas to alleviate discomfort. Regrettably, such actions can break the skin, allowing bacteria to enter and potentially cause secondary infections.

Your veterinarian can recommend preventative medications to keep fleas away from your dog's sensitive skin. Proper lawn maintenance and regular home vacuuming can also help reduce the risk of flea-induced contact dermatitis.

4 Flea-Transmitted Diseases That Can Affect Your Cat's Well-being

Beyond the apparent nuisance of a flea infestation, these blood-sucking parasites can expose your cat to various diseases, jeopardizing their health and happiness. Here are four prevalent feline illnesses caused by fleas:

Bartonellosis in Cats and Cat Scratch Disease

Cats can contract bartonellosis, a bacterial infection, from ingesting flea droppings containing the Bartonella bacteria. Fleas infected with the bacteria deposit it in their feces, which can directly contact your cat's skin.

Although cats typically don't exhibit severe symptoms from this infection, Bartonella bacteria have been linked to various feline medical conditions, including mouth and gum disease, eye inflammation, and heart disease. An unsettling aspect is that cats can harbor the bacteria for over a year, potentially passing it on to other fleas or cats or even infecting humans with cat scratch disease. When a cat with Bartonella bacteria scratches a human, the bacteria can enter the fresh wound, leading to "cat scratch fever" or "cat scratch disease."

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) in Cats

Flea bites can trigger hypersensitivity in some cats due to the fleas' saliva. This condition, called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), is a common cause of itchiness in cats.

When fleas bite and deposit their saliva, it can penetrate your cat's skin, prompting an immune response. This can result in intense skin irritation extending beyond the bite sites, leading to hair loss around the tail, belly, and inner thighs, and potential skin infections that exacerbate the problem.

If your cat suffers from FAD, you may observe small scab-like bumps on their skin. These distressing symptoms persist until effective flea control measures are implemented.

Anemia in Cats

A significant infestation of fleas can lead to anemia in cats. If numerous fleas feed on your cat's blood, it can result in symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, rapid breathing, and potentially even death if left untreated. Anemia is complex, especially in kittens, and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Tapeworms in Cats

Tapeworms can be transmitted to cats through fleas, often during grooming sessions. When your cat ingests a flea that carries tapeworms, they can become infected. Tapeworms attach themselves to your cat's intestines using hook-like mouthparts, where they grow and absorb nutrients.

You might notice segments of tapeworms near your cat's hind end, resembling white grains of rice, sometimes appearing to move. When these segments dry out, they release eggs into the environment, potentially swallowed by fleas, perpetuating the cycle.

While tapeworms generally don't cause significant health issues in cats, they can occasionally lead to abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and itchiness around the anus.

What to Do If Your Cat Contracts a Flea-Related Disease

If you suspect your cat has contracted a flea-transmitted disease, schedule a vet appointment to devise an appropriate treatment plan.

Chances are, if your cat has a flea-related disease, they are also grappling with a flea infestation. It's essential to treat your cat and any other pets for fleas. In severe infestations, you should also treat your home and outdoor areas to eliminate all flea life stages, effectively breaking the flea life cycle.

Get a Pet Insurance Quote

Preventing Fleas on Cats

Fleas can thrive in various environments and remain active throughout the year, especially in warm homes. To prevent diseases transmitted by fleas, use a reliable flea prevention product designed for cats year-round.

Consider keeping all pets on a monthly flea control regimen utilizing a product that kills fleas on contact. This approach ensures that fleas do not need to bite your cat before the treatment takes effect, helping prevent discomfort and diseases carried by fleas in the first place.

Get insurance plans with wide-ranging coverage options

Get a pet insurance quote in under 2 minutes!
Get Started