The moment we realise one of our pets have fleas we go into panic mode.
Understanding the flea life cycle is key in managing and preventing infestation.
Flea life cycle:
There is four different stages in the flea life cycle: egg, larva, pupae and adult. Depending on different environmental factors the life cycle can last for several weeks to months.
An adult female lays eggs after eating a blood meal. She will obtain a blood meal from feeding on your pet. On average she will lay approximately 40 eggs daily. Eggs will hatch between 2 days to two weeks depending on favourable environmental temperatures.
The emerging larvae are blind and will avoid being out in the light. They grow over several weeks by eating flea dirt. Flea dirt is predigested blood. Flea larvae make up to 35% of the flea population. In desired conditions larvae will start spinning a cocoon in 5-20 days after hatching.
The pupae stage accounts for approximately 10% of the flea population on your dog. This stage lasts for several days to weeks. The pupae protects the flea while it is developing in an adult. During unfavorable conditions the cocoon can protect the pupae for months and in extreme cases even for years.
The adult flea will not emerge until the presence of a potential host is made obvious – by vibrations, rising levels of carbon dioxide, and body heat. This can be triggered even by simple movement from your pet or yourself.
Adult fleas require a blood meal after emergence. After feeding they will breed and lay eggs within a couple of days. Adult fleas is only about 5% of the flea population on your pet. Depending on environmental factors they can survive for several months at a time.
Despite their need for a host, a flea may spend up to 90 percent of its life on nearby surfaces, instead. They do not typically make large leaps, but it is possible for them to jump up to 200 times their body length.
What does fleas like on your dog:
- Flea droppings (dark specks) in the fur
- Flea eggs (white specks) in the fur
- Excessive licking or scratching
- Scabs or hot spots on the skin
What Harm Can Fleas Cause?
Fleas are more than just an itchy nuisance. They can actually cause a number of potentially serious problems:
- Flea-related dermatitis and flea allergy: Fleas cause skin irritation and infection in any pet that chews at itchy skin. For pets that are allergic to flea saliva, the bite of even 1 flea can cause intense itching and serious skin disease. Signs of flea-related skin disease include redness, bumps, and scabs.
- Anemia: A heavy flea infestation can cause anemia and even death from blood loss.
- Infection: Fleas carry bacteria and parasites that can infect both pets and people, including tapeworm, typhus, tularemia, plague, and bartonellosis (cat-scratch disease).
Treat the adult fleas living on your pet with prescribed medication from your veterinarian, spot on medication, and shampoos. Discuss treatment options with your veterinarian. Different treatments will include or exclude treating the environment as well.
The best way to prevent fleas is to treat your pets prophylactically especially in warmer and more humid months