All About Fleas

Cat_FleaIf you’ve been in our office lately, you might have overheard us using the ‘F’ word… that dreaded four letter word that makes us all cringe: Flea! With autumn just around the corner, many people believe that flea season is just about over.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. A warm spring or fall can extend the flea season to 9 or 10 months of the year, and fleas can survive in winter months too, thanks to well regulated temperatures inside the home that provide a perfect breeding ground year-round.

More facts about fleas…

Fleas feed on the blood of their host, which is called a “blood meal.” Although the female flea can drink up to 15 times her body weight in blood daily, she is also able to live more than 100 days without a blood meal.

Did you know? Of the thousand-plus species and sub-species of fleas, the cat-flea is the most common flea species found on dogs and cats in the U.S.

fleas-on-cat-furA few fleas can become an infestation in no time if left untreated: the female can lay up to 2,000 eggs in her lifetime—which ranges from 2-3 months up to 18 months in optimum conditions.

Some pets can develop an allergy to flea saliva, such that even one bite can make them extremely itchy, uncomfortable, and cause severe skin irritation. Pets with severe infestations can also develop anemia from the overall loss of blood.

Did you know? Fleas can jump up to 100 times their body length.

flea dirtFlea “dirt” (feces) found on a pet during infestation

Veterinarians are often asked what pill, drop, dip, collar, or shampoo works the best to get rid of these persistent parasites. Unfortunately, no single method or insecticide will completely eradicate (or at least control) a flea problem.

Why? Because the flea’s life cycle is fairly complex, and much of it occurs in the animal’s environment, not on the animal itself. For this reason, understanding the various life stages of the flea will make it easier to get rid of them.

Flea Life CycleFleas have four life stages:

Even if you are not seeing fleas, they can still be there…

Egg Stage
The female flea lays her eggs on the host. From there, they can easily fall off your pet and into the environment. Therefore, flea eggs can be found anywhere a flea infested pet has access. Eggs can hatch 1-6 days after they are laid.

Larvae Stage
The flea larvae are white and segmented and have no legs. They feed on flea feces to survive and avoid the light. They can be found deep in carpet fibers, or under organic debris such as leaves. They undergo two molts (shedding of their skin) during this period which usually lasts 5-11 days. They accumulate in areas frequented by pets.

Pupa Stage
The Pupa is a cocoon stage of the flea life cycle. Within 7-14 days the pupa is fully developed. However, a fully developed flea can stay inside the cocoon for several weeks or even several months until stimulated to emerge. Heat, vibration or physical pressure can all stimulate emergence from the pupa cocoon.

Adult Stage
As soon as the adult flea emerges from the cocoon, it immediately begins seeking a host and moves up toward the light, coming to the top of the carpet pile, or bedding material where they are the most likely to encounter a passing host. Mating occurs on the pet, and egg production begins within 24-48 hours of females taking their first blood meal. With this event, the life cycle starts all over.

happy dog cat“Is that flea dirt on your head, or have you been rolling in the flowerpots again?”

When it comes to fleas, prevention is key!

If you suspect your pet may have fleas, we will use a flea comb to check for signs. Depending on what we discover, we typically recommend using a flea control product year round to offer your pet the very best protection.

We recommend using a monthly application of topical flea control such as Activyl or Activyl Tick-Plus, Revolution for cats, or our newest product, NexGard, which is a monthly oral chew for dogs to ensure your pet remains flea-free 365 days a year.

Better yet, contact us to help determine the best product for your individual pet: some over the counter flea control products are not as effective as what you can get from your veterinarian, and some can even be toxic to your animal.

 

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About Bothell Pet Hospital

Since 1954, Bothell Pet Hospital has been operating as an independent small animal hospital, providing primary veterinary care to cats and dogs in Bothell, Lake City, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Woodinville, Mill Creek, Kirkland, Brier, and other surrounding neighborhoods.
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