Know Your Enemy- Battle Against Fleas

Adult Flea

Adult Flea

Floyd here and I would like to turn the floor over to my mom to tell you a little bit about one of the most annoying parasites that pet owners come into contact with.

You love your furry family member more than anything and you love to snuggle with them and spend time with them. While sitting with them, have you ever thought to yourself that you may have more than one pet living in your house?  As you sit in the living room watching animal planet with your furry family member, there may be something lurking in you carpet, drapery, furniture, and on your pet waiting for its next blood meal. Hopefully understanding the life cycle will also help you better understand how preventative works.

Fleas are a nuisance and are often very difficult to get rid of. Have you ever wondered to yourself, why fleas are so hard to get rid of? Did you know that the adult fleas that you see on your pet only make up for 5% of the flea population? The other 95% are hiding silently in your home.  Of the 95%; 10% are pupae, 35% are larvae or maggots, and 50% are the eggs.  These forms of the fleas that hide silently include the eggs, maggots, and pupae.  An adult flea can lay up to 40-50 eggs per day and over 5000 eggs over their lifetime (which is about on year). So you can image that they multiply rather quickly.

Fleas lay their eggs and in as little as a day those eggs hatch into maggots. These eggs are laid on the host and often roll off of the pet into the environment. These maggots or larvae are almost microscopic at the size 1-2mm. The maggots love to live in shaded areas or carpet and feed on dead insects, feces, and vegetable material. They love to eat the feces of the adult flea because it is digested blood from the adult flea’s recent blood meal. They then spin a silk cocoon and remain dormant anywhere from 1 week to a year. This part of the flea life cycle is virtually indestructible.  There is nothing available that can kill it. The cocoon stays dormant until movement of a blood meal awakens it. This could be your pet or you walking across the carpet in your home or the vibration and warmth of the vacuum can also cause this. So just vacuuming your carpets can wake them up so that they can make more adult fleas and then in turn they can lay more eggs. An adult flea needs to feed before they are capable of reproduction.

flea life cycle

Now here is the creepy part; fleas love to hitch a ride on us even though we are not the preferred host. And by this I mean that even if your pet is strictly indoors and never goes outside, the flea (no matter the part of the life cycle) can hitch a ride into the house on you. They then jump off of us and into the environment or your pet. Fleas do not prefer us as blood meals however they will feed on us if no other blood meal is available. Fleas are also creepy because some of them carry a part of the tapeworm life cycle. This means that if your pet ingests a flea that is carrying tapeworms, then they will get tapeworms. Fleas cause your pet to itch so when they bite at themselves, because they are itchy, they could potentially ingest a flea that is carrying the tapeworm in its gut.  Thus causing another problem where your pet has several more pets (tapeworms) in its digestive tract.

In conclusion, fleas are very good at hiding, multiplying and where there is one flea there are many more. Like mentioned previously an important take home message is even a strictly indoor pet can have fleas. One form of the life cycle is indestructible (the pupae). So the best way to rid of the flea population totally is to keep your pet (and every other pet in the house) on monthly preventative. This helps to break all the stages of the life cycles by killing off all the adults as they hatch. Monthly preventative is especially important since the pupae can lay dormant for months. If you are on monthly preventative it doesn’t matter that the pupae hatch months to a year later because you’re pet will be protected all year round.  If you think your pet has fleas please contact your veterinarian because fleas carry diseases (some of which can be contracted by humans) and cause skin infection and all kinds of other issues for your pet. There are many types of preventatives that can be used effectively monthly. The best preventatives are combination preventatives that not only protect your pet from fleas but also from heartworm disease. If you need a good monthly preventative please do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian’s office.

Until next time,

Floyd & Heather

Stow Kent Animal Hospital & Portage Animal Clinic





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