With warm weather many pet owners will get frustrated with fleas on their pets, not to mention the pets themselves becoming irritated and frustrated!
It is most often the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis that infests our dogs and cats. They are wingless insects with powerful back legs for jumping. They spend their entire adult life on their host but the larval and pupal stages develop in the environment.
The adult female flea lays small white oval eggs that fall from the pet’s coat into the environment. Up to 50 eggs per day per flea! You may see these in the pets bedding or on a dark surface where he has been laying. The eggs hatch and develop through 3 larval stages. The larvae feed on organic debris deep in the carpets and other dark places in the environment. The flea larvae then pupate: they form a cocoon and develop into the adult flea. These pupae take between 5 and 140 days to develop and lay in wait for their next meal to come along. Then they emerge from their cocoon in a fraction of a second and jump onto a warm blooded host.
This explains the explosion of tiny fleas that jump onto our legs if we walk into a flea infested home, particularly if it has been dormant for a period. The fleas are waiting for us! However, the adult fleas are happier in the fur coat of a cat or dog and will not stay long on our skin.
Once the flea has found a furry home she starts to feed, ie. Suck blood! Within a few days of her first blood meal she will start to produce eggs. The life cycle takes about 3-4 weeks. One female flea can be responsible for producing 20,000 adult fleas in 60 days.
As the female flea feeds she injects saliva into the pets’ skin. Many pets are allergic to the saliva, resulting in intense scratching. Fleas are responsible for transmitting the flea tapeworm to dogs and cats.
There are other infections the fleas can transmit: Mycoplasma haemofelis, (a red blood cell parasite) causes anaemia in cats and Bartonella henselae a bacterial infection the cat can then pass to humans better known as “cat scratch fever”. And remember the rat flea was responsible for transmitting the plague to thousands of people in the 1660’s.
If you see one or two fleas on your pet, there is also likely a large population of larval and pupal stages in the pets’ environment. This is why we get frustrated when treating the fleas: a simple wash in the tub will rid the pet of adult fleas in the coat but the moment he goes back to his bed or walks across the carpet, fleas are jumping onto him again. They don’t actually jump from one pet to another pet but jump from the environment.
Keeping your pet totally flea free is the best option and it is not always easy if the problem is already underway. Getting the right advice from your Vet will save you in the long run. Factors that will influence the choice of products include the number and type of pets you have at home, the pet’s lifestyle and the environment they live in and how often they are shampooed.