Fleas: What Pet Owners Need to Know
Pop quiz: What can lay up to 50 eggs daily, can jump at least one foot (which is equivalent to a person jumping about half a block), and can’t wait to make a meal out of your pet’s blood?
The answer: a flea!
Fleas are external parasites that transmit diseases to animals and humans, including cat scratch disease, tapeworms, mycoplasma haemofelis, and murine typhus. Their life cycle includes four stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult), and they can live between 2 weeks and several months, depending on temperature and humidity levels.
Smaller than a grain of sand and white in color, flea eggs make up about half of the total flea population in an environment. They are laid in the fur of pets by adult female fleas, and they fall off as the pet moves around, spreading throughout the environment.
Flea eggs will take 2 days to 2 weeks to hatch and become flea larvae. About a quarter of an inch in length with no legs, flea larvae are nearly transparent. They eat pre-digested blood that adult fleas pass (also known as “flea dirt”). In ideal conditions, a flea larva will spin a cocoon 5 to 20 days after hatching from its egg.
Flea pupae can be protected from the elements while inside their cocoons until the climate is ideal and a host is present, which can be anywhere from several days to years. A flea pupa has a sticky outer coating that helps it to stay concealed and safe.
Once they emerge from their cocoons, adult fleas need to feed within a few hours, and they will begin laying eggs a few days after that. Adult fleas represent only 5 percent of the total flea population in an environment, so if you see one, many more will likely follow.
Protecting your pet from fleas
Regardless of the time of year, fleas in various life stages can be in your home and on your pets. But, you can keep your pets safe by regularly administering a flea preventive medication that kills fleas in all four life stages.
Not all flea preventive medications are created equal, and flea medications meant for dogs can be toxic to cats. Ask us about the flea preventive medication that would be best for your pet.