It can be argued that the title has slightly dramatic tones: anyone who ever had the misfortune to be the victim of a flea infestation will know that fleas are to be taken seriously. They are an almighty pest: they can reproduce independently (they don’t need to mate) and they can, horror of horrors, produce about fifty eggs a day. Not only that; the larvae can incubate to up to one year, and hatch at a favourable moment – which is usually when the climate becomes milder or in the winter months if you have good radiators. In fact, not many know that 95% of fleas live in the environment rather than on your pet; it’s therefore paramount to make sure the environment is clear, as treating your pet if the house is infested has no effect (or the effect is short-lived).
In terms of products, it was explained to me by my savvy vet, that the ones you buy over the counter in supermarkets or pet-shops are not the most effective: I was told you need a veterinary licence to obtain and retail the really effective ones. In some cases, the vet will need to see your pet before administering the treatment, to make sure your pet is healthy as the treatment is rather powerful.
There must be some truth in the above, as I spent almost or probably more than a hundred pounds in sprays for the house & carpets etc. last year when I was hit by fleas; they simply seemed to come back, no matter how much I sprayed and cleaned (last years’ humidity created many problems for many people in terms of infestation). Interestingly, what really seemed to work were ‘flea traps’: this is a sophisticated device, constituted by a white plate/bowl filled with water, and placed under a lamp. Fleas are irresistably attracted to light and will jump into the bowl, hence drowning. I remember watching with fascination the never-ending stream of newborns and adults fall into the trap, even when there was no visible trace of infestation (‘trace’ being us being bitten by the fleas, with no mercy).
The product I was sold by the vet is a bit more expensive but it’s really worth it. Not only you need to spray it only once; it lasts for about a year, and whenever new fleas hatch, they are instantly killed.
Anyway, the best defence is indeed prevention; to avoid infestations, it is advisable to treat your home at least a couple of times a year at strategic times (when it gets warmer, when you start using the heating). Unfortunately flea eggs can incubate for a long time so if you have an outdoor pet, you have to treat the problem as ongoing, to save yourself a lot of trouble.
I hope this helps, and watch out, Summer is coming! Be prepared 😉