7 Myths and Flea Facts, and How to Protect Your Furry Friends

Amy Shojai, CABC

Fleas have been around for eons. They bugged the heck out of dinosaurs and continue to cause problems for modern-day pets and their parents. Yet, misinformation about fleas abounds. Knowing the difference between flea facts and common misconceptions can help you make informed choices about how to protect your home and pets.

Myth #1: Fleas Can Fly

Flea Facts: Fleas do not have wings. They only seem to soar when they jump. A specialized protein inside fleas acts like elastic to propel them great distances.1 Their leg and thorax muscles compress and then quickly release this resilin protein. The recoil action hurls the flea upward eight inches into the air. They can leap up to 16 inches, which is 150 times their own length!

Myth #2: Fleas Only Live on Pets

Flea Facts: For every flea you see on your pet, hundreds more hide in the environment. About 95% of the flea population lives in the environment, not on pets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that a flea has four life stages.2 A female flea produces more than 2,000 eggs in 30 days, about 50 a day. The eggs fall off your pet into the yard or your carpet, where they can stay dormant for as long as six months, waiting for the right temperature to hatch. More often, flea eggs hatch into maggot-like larvae in one to two weeks. You won't see these tiny larvae hiding in your yard or carpet. But in about 30 days, the new adult flea emerges to snag another furry victim.

Fleas prefer shaded areas of the yard, fields, and woods, where dogs play. Other critters that bring fleas into your yard include raccoons, opossums, or neighborhood cats. Adult fleas can catch rides on your outdoor pets (or on your clothes). Once inside, fleas set up housekeeping in your home, unbeknownst to you. That's why it's important to treat all areas of your home and yard with AdamsTM Flea & Tick Carpet & Home Spray and AdamsTM Yard & Garden Spray. These products can kill fleas on the spot and prevent any others from setting up shop in your home or yard.

Myth #3: You Only Need to Treat the Itchy Pet

Flea Facts: Scratching ranks as a top sign of fleas on dogs and cats. But not all pets react with itching. The bites don't hurt, but flea saliva can cause allergic symptoms. Fleas affect pets in different ways. Some pets don't notice the fleas biting and crawling on them at all. Cats often groom away all their fleas before you see them. If one of your pets has fleas, they're likely to affect other animals in your home. Unless you treat all your pets, the fleas may never go away.

Myth #4: You Only Need Flea Treatment in Summer

Flea Facts: Fleas do thrive in warm weather, but they can also survive the cold. In cool weather, adult fleas stay inside cocoons in a dormant-like state. They can survive up to 155 days without eating. And they can reemerge after being dormant for months — to start the cycle all over again!

Inside your warm house, fleas continue to feed, reproduce, and cause problems all winter long. The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends treating fleas all year long.3

Myth #5: Vacuuming and Carpet-Cleaning Prevents Fleas

Flea Facts: Fleas in various stages of life hide out in bedding, clothes, and furniture. They even like wood flooring. The bugs appear where pets feel most comfortable. Fleas prefer undisturbed, protected places, such as under furniture and along baseboards. Vacuuming can lift immature fleas up out of the carpet and still not remove them. Premise treatments — insecticides available as foggers and sprays — may work better. AdamsTM Plus Flea & Tick Indoor Fogger, for example, covers 375 square feet of your home and protects against fleas for up to seven months.

When you do vacuum, be sure you throw the bag out in an outside can and clean the vacuum canister after each use. Any bugs captured inside vacuums can spread through the rest of your house the next time you clean.

Myth #6: Natural Repellant Methods Are Effective and Safe in Your Yard

Flea Facts: Cedar and herbs such as pennyroyal, peppermint, and spearmint can repel fleas. But, they won't shoo away enough fleas to protect cats and dogs. Keeping yards mowed short and removing brush is an important first step in discouraging fleas from settling down in your yard. Relying only on natural methods may put your pet and home at risk for flea infestation. It's also important to know that some plants recommended to repel fleas, such as wormwood, can poison dogs and cats. If you're inclined to go this route, talk with your vet to ensure you're not putting your pet at risk. AdamsTM Yard & Garden Spray, on the other hand, is effective for treating all areas of your yard, including patios, lawns, trees, flower gardens, and window frames.

Myth #7: Garlic, Brewer's Yeast, and Ultrasonic Devices Keep Fleas at Bay

Flea Facts: Many people believe that feeding pets garlic will ward off fleas. To date, no study has shown garlic to be effective in this way. In some pets, feeding them too much garlic can damage red blood cells and lead to anemia. The Pet Food Institute notes Brewer's yeast contains protein and B vitamins that may help improve pet health.4 Still, there's no evidence that it repels fleas.

High-frequency ultrasonic devices have little to no effect on fleas. Many products claim success with no proof. But your dog and cat can undoubtedly hear the sounds they make. Such devices could cause distress or lead to behavior changes.

In the end, dogs and cats can't distinguish between flea facts and myths. As their pet parent, learn how to protect your furry friends by asking questions. Do claims seem too good to be true? What science backs up the information? Is this idea a fact or a myth? Then, talk with your vet about preventative measures and solutions that can keep your dog or cat flea-free.

  1. Natural History Museum. "Video: How Do Fleas Jump So High?" 3 January 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psbNbTpsprU
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "How Fleas Spread Disease," 13 August 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/fleas/life_cycle_and_hosts.html
  3. Companion Animal Parasite Council. "Fleas: Dog," 2022. https://capcvet.org/guidelines/fleas/#dog-overview-of-life-cycle
  4. Pet Food Institute. "The A to Z of Pet Food: Brewers Dried Yeast," 11 July 2017. https://www.petfoodinstitute.org/blog/z-pet-food-brewers-dried-yeast/

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