Fleas are the most common ectoparasites of cats and dogs. Every cat and dog will suffer from a flea infestation at some stage of their life. Fleas can pose a real threat to your pets health and the well being of your family. Despite recent advances in products available to control fleas, they still represent an often frustrating problem to pet owners.
The most important thing to remember is that the adult fleas seen on your pet will only represent 5% of the total flea population; the other 95% are made up immature fleas in the household (bedding, carpets and chairs etc) in the form of eggs, larvae and pupae, so the whole cycle needs to be broken to be treated.The flea’s life cycle can be as little as three weeks, depending on the temperature and humidity of their surroundings.
The Life Cycle of the Flea
The egg stage:
The female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day; these do not stick to your pet but will fall off around your home, hatching in 2-5days.A female flea lays about 2,000 eggs in a lifetime.
The larval stage:
After hatching the larva will head away from light, so carpets and bedding are their ideal surroundings. They will feed on ‘flea dirt’, which contains partially digested blood from your pet. The larva grows, moult twice and then spin cocoons for them to grow in until they become pupae.
The pupa stage:
The length of this stage averages 8-9 days. Depending on weather conditions, population explosions typically occur 5-6 weeks after the weather starts to warm up.
The adult stage:
The adults emerge from their cocoons when they detect heat, vibrations and exhaled carbon dioxide indicating that there is a pet nearby. Once they jump onto a host, the adults mate and begin the life cycle again. The whole cycle can be as short as 3-4 weeks.
Why is it important to control fleas?
Fleas can cause serious irritation to your pet and to yourself if they are not treated. Your pet may get to the point where they are harming themselves by itching and biting themselves. There are also more serious ailments caused by flea infestations, as shown below.
Flea allergy dermatitis:
The saliva deposited in your pets skin by fleas, can cause an allergic reaction which will cause severe itching .This will then cause redness, soreness, hair loss and possibly scabby areas on your pet. Fleas will also bite humans- so you’re at risk too!!
Young, older or ill pets may become anaemic if they have a large infestation of fleas sucking their blood. The symptoms of anaemia include pale gums, lethargy and weakness.
Treatment and prevention.
Products sold by veterinary practices to treat fleas are effective and safe. The different products available include sprays, ‘spot-on’ treatments or oral treatments. Your vet or vet nurse can advise on which would be the correct treatment for your pet. There are also a number of products available from pet shops and supermarkets etc. However if you use these treatments, please use them carefully. Make sure you purchase the correct one for your pet, ensuring it is for the correct species and weight. ALWAYS follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
If your pet has fleas, then so will your environment. Therefore you should treat your home as well as your pet. Sprays are available for the environment; again always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Vacuum frequently to help to clean up as many immature fleas as possible.
Dispose of your vacuum bag regularly. Also wash your pets bedding as often as possible on the hottest possible cycle. If you require any more information about fleas and the treatment of fleas, book in with a nurse at our nurse clinics free of charge.