Understanding Fleas:

As you know, fleas live on assorted animals and bite them to drink blood, which is their food. Flea saliva has elements that softens the skin of a host via digestion so they can more easily penetrate the skin. This is why flea bites itch and why some pets have severe flea allergies. The flea life stage includes egg, larva, pupa and the adult. They usually live for two weeks, but under some conditions can live several months. The adult female can lay up to 15-20 eggs per day sometimes a lifetime total of 600. Flea eggs are not sticky, so will fall off your pet onto carpet, bedding, floorboards, cracks and crevices in your home or in your yard.

The entire life cycle takes about 2 weeks but sometimes can go up to 8 months. A flea population is usually made up of 50% eggs, 30% larva, 15% pupae and only 5% of biting adults. This means that you need to take steps when you see fleas and not wait until the problem is out of control. If conditions “aren’t right” for a flea to emerge from their pupae stage (a tiny protective cocoon) they may remain in the protected cocoon until they detect vibration (a pet or human walking nearby), pressure (a pet laying on them), heat (body heat or weather), noise or carbon dioxide (from mammals). An adult flea cannot live without a blood meal, but can “hibernate” from 2 months to up to a year without feeding.

You may have had the experience of leaving on vacation and returning with an outbreak of fleas. While you were gone, and there were no pets or humans in the house for the fleas to feed on, they hibernated or remained in the cocoon until your return. When they sense food is near, you get attacked by a starving flea population. In just 30 days, 10 female fleas could multiply to over a quarter million different life stages. For each flea you see on your pet, there are 30 more in your environment. How frightening is that?

Read about safer alternatives

Read about toxic flea and tick products

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  • Hi my name is Charlotte. I have a cat called Marley he is 1 years old. I think he has a flea allergy and i really need some help. At the moment i am using Stronghold which the vet said it is the best around. Mrley is always treated on time never late but he is still scratching himself till he bleeds. The vet gives him a steriod injection to stop the itching but i hate him having to have these as i know they will only cause him problems when his older. I am saving up for him to have a blood test next year which is going to cost me £200 plus. I really could do with some help Marley is my baby, i just want to do whats best for him

    • Hi Charlotte! I am sorry to hear that Marley has such bad flea allergies. Out of curiosity, does he scratch more after the Stronghold than just before? I have a page posting alternatives. You can find it here http://tinytimmy.org/fleas/alternatives/

      I’d suggest trying some of these solutions and feel free to ask me any questions after you’ve read the alternatives. For Marley’s skin you might want to try our Tiny Timmy’s Sudz. There’s a link on the alternatives page, or you can also look at our store. If that’s not up your alley, then see if you can’t find some all-natural handmade soap that has coconut oil, shea butter and oliver oil in it. Stay away from things that contain scents or essences as cats especially are very sensitive to essences (that’s why it was so hard to formulate our soaps). We have a cat who has such bad flea allergies that if he gets one bite, his entire body breaks out in bumps. We use the Timmy Sudz on him and he loves it. He is like a new cat. It was designed with cats like him in mind – those with severe allergies where the skin is often already irritated or raw.

      You will likely need a multiple mode of attack, treating your yard/garden area as well as inside your home. The alternatives page covers those as well as different options for Marley. At the bottom you will also find those chemical interventions that are, in my opinion, safer than others. If you want me to look up what these are marketed as in the UK I’d be more than happy to do that for you.

      What is the blood test looking for?

      One more thought. Our cat’s allergies got way better from just changing his food to no-grain. What kind of food is Marley on right now?

  • Maureen Elkins

    Do I  use Diatonaceious earth ONLY when there is an outbreak of fleas or do I apply it how often to prevent flea investation?   I am confused about this.   I need Exact application directions…I know a little is applied but how often?

    • TinyTimmy<span class="comment-author-location"> from Portland, OR, United States</span>

      Hi Maureen – DE should be food grade only. You use it when you have fleas. It scratches the waxy coating and the fleas with dry out and die. It can’t do that if there are no fleas. However, if you use it outside — around your house — you should apply it more often whether or not you see them. I find in the house it is easiest for me to use a turkey baster. If you are doing a large area and not, say, a couch, be sure to wear a dust mask to protect your lungs. Once it’s down, it’s fine, you just don’t want to inhale a bunch of it if it’s dusting up. Also when I treat a room fully, I remove the cats from the room I am treating. After it’s fine for them to go in, just not if they have the opportunity to get curious about what I’m doing and get a schnoz full of DE! I have been dealing with my own health issues and so am late to much of these. I answered so that others could see my answer and it might save them some time. I will try to put on my “to do” list creating a more detailed guide for DE or even an infographic.

  • Meg<span class="comment-author-location"> from Sarasota, FL, United States</span>

    Do you have any knowledge of a Merck product by the name of ACTIVYL? The active ingredient is:


    and the inactive ingredients are:


    Link to a European website with info on the product:

    • TinyTimmy<span class="comment-author-location"> from Portland, OR, United States</span>

      Hi Meg,

      Thanks for sending this over! Is this something you need asap? Otherwise I would like to take the time to get a registration jacket for the product. Usually this takes a few weeks but can take months. I’ve done a bit of research already and can give you a little bit of information beyond the link you sent me if you need more info asap. Let me know.

    • TinyTimmy<span class="comment-author-location"> from Portland, OR, United States</span>

      Just a follow up. So sorry it’s taken me so long. I’ve been dealing with my own health issues and this sort of fell by the wayside. I downloaded the registration jackets for this from the EPA website and am going through the information. If you’d like a copy, email me or use the Google Voice icon at the bottom of the sidebar.

  • FERAL20<span class="comment-author-location"> from Windham, CT, United States</span>

    Our vet told us the Seresto collars were far more safe than the Advantix so we got them for all 3 dogs, no problems (at least seen) we were about to put on their new collars for the spring & summer when we discovered some bad reviews =( We have tried holistic remedies, sprays and oils in the past and they did not keep the fleas and ticks away =( We live in CT and ticks are awful. One of our dogs ended up with lyme and that was when we got the collars? I saw the soap looks cool. Any suggestions?

    • TinyTimmy<span class="comment-author-location"> from Portland, OR, United States</span>

      Hi Feral20,

      There’s a section for alternatives here http://www.tinytimmy.org/alternatives

      Ticks are very tricky and a lot of the treatment will depend on where you live – such as yard and landscaping that your dogs come into contact with. The big question is whether or not you own your own yard, or share (such as in a condo or apartment situation).

      We make a soap that repels ticks, but whatever you use you should always tick check. Most of the chemical applications (collars, drops, sprays, etc) don’t stop ticks from biting your dogs. The ticks die after they bite, but many are becoming immune to the pesticides & chemicals which is where landscaping to minimize tick habitat comes in. Generally, the belief is that a tick must gorge and be attached for 24 hours in order to spread Lyme Disease, however this is not always the case. For example, if your dog scratches at the area where a tick is attached, the tick may regurgitate the Lyme Bacteria irregardless of the time it has been attached.

      Chemical collars are always dangerous because they can leave up to 1000x the acceptable levels of toxins for children and 100x adult amounts in your environment. If you can image this, think of what your pets are exposed to while they are wearing them.

      For dogs there is a number of options that aren’t safe for cats. You can use something like Wondercide. These options are highly toxic to cats long term due to their delicate metabolism.

      I am planning on building out the alternatives area for cats and dogs so that more can be covered for dogs.

      Feel free to contact me directly for a game plan.

  • Marla<span class="comment-author-location"> from Denver, CO, United States</span>

    i have treated both my cats frontline plus for the last 3-4 months after my dog brought fleas home. I treat about every 6 weeks as they were not showing signs of fleas. One cat started itching and pulling out hair so I treated her at 4 weeks. The next day I could tell SOMEONE licked at the spot. I don’t think the treated cat could reach it so it was likely the other one grooming her buddy. 2 days later she is in the hospital with pancreatitis. VERY scary possibly fatal… I find articles saying pancreatitis can be caused by some pesticides. Has anyone had this experience?? My vet feels it is unlikely, but I think it is an awfully big coincidence!! No neurological problems noted in either cat.

    • TinyTimmy<span class="comment-author-location"> from Portland, OR, United States</span>

      I am so sorry to hear this happened to you.
      It’s not uncommon to have some vets dismiss issues with the brands they either still sell or used to sell. The AVMA is funded by the pet pesticide industry among other things, so they don’t “officially” state there is an issue. They pretty well tow the party line. Other vets rely on their sales reps for info. Also not the best source in some cases.

      I did a little bit of research and some pesticides are known to cause pancreatitis and pancreatic cancers. It appears to be well known with some classes of pesticide. Firpronil, the main active ingredient in Frontline, is found in pancreatic tissue after exposure. Here’s the fact sheet (from one of the places you are going to call to report the issue) http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/fiptech.html

      Keep in mind the pesticides for flea & tick products are the same as those for agriculture.

      Also Frontline uses a derivative of benzene (I believe) as their carrier fluid. That’s more than 90% of something that isn’t on the package and you don’t have the ability to make a decision knowing all the facts. These carriers can cause some issues too.

      Please PLEASE click on the banner or side bar where it says “What To Do” If your pet is having a reaction. It’s important to report these things, even if your vet isn’t quite sure.