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St Anne's Veterinary Group Blog

» Fleas are Tricky Customers

I can feel you scratching after just read the title, great now I am too! The life cycle of the flea is complex and their resistance to insecticides is frustrating. You have to understand how the cycle works in order to treat your home and pet correctly. There are four stages to the life cycle: egg, larva, pupae and adult.

The cycle begins when the female flea lays eggs following a tasty blood meal from the host (i.e. your pet). Blood is necessary for the adult fleas to reproduce. The eggs that are laid are white and just smaller than a grain of sand; they are laid in clumps of around 20 in the pet’s fur. A single female flea can lay 40 eggs a day, so you can imagine how quickly that can mount up! The eggs will fall off your pet as they move around and will end up scattered in the environment that he/she spends their time. Eggs make up about 50% of the entire flea population in the average home.

Eggs can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks to develop. They will only hatch once the environmental conditions are just right. If the environment is too cold or dry they will take longer, once perfect they will emerge as larvae.
The freshly hatched larvae will be blind and will avoid the light. They develop (and this is really gross), by ingesting digested blood, also known as flea dirt along with other organic matter found in the environment.
Flea larvae can be up to ¼ of an inch in length and are white (almost transparent) and legless. If the conditions are favourable then they will spin cocoons at in about 5-20 days of hatching. This leads to the next stage which is known as the cocoon or pupae stage.

The cocoon protects the pupae for several days, weeks or even years if the conditions aren’t right. The cocoons are slightly sticky on the outside and can get deep into the carpet, where they can avoid light vacuuming and sweeping. The cocoon also serves to protect the adult from chemicals.

The adult flea will not appear until the presence of a potential host is obvious, like rising carbon dioxide or warmth. This could be triggered by your pet walking into the house or moving home can alert the flea that it is time to emerge and feed. Once the flea has vacated its cocoon it will soon feed. They will then breed and lay eggs within a few days. Only 5% of the fleas will actually be on the animal, the rest will be in the environment. And did you know that if left untreated they can live on the host animal for anything between a few weeks to several months.

Well there you are, they’re difficult creatures to kill and there is a reason we will often recommend the use of multiple products. If there are already fleas present you will have to treat your pet and the environment. Some flea treatments will kill the flea once they have ingested blood containing the insecticide. Others will make the flea sterile, meaning the flea will still live out its entire life cycle but the eggs that it lays will not hatch and there for are great for looking after the environment. Give us a call to see how to best get rid of fleas!



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