As spring arrives in the lower mainland, Amherst Veterinary Hospital gets many questions about fleas and flea prevention for dogs and cats. In order to help you select the best flea prevention products for your pet, let’s explore the life cycle of fleas and why prevention is so important. Life Cycle of the Flea: Ctenocephalides felis Eggs are laid in the coat of your pet and fall off the host into the environment where they hatch. About one third of flea populations in homes are in the egg stage, where they incubate well at room temperature. They are resistant to insecticides but susceptible to insect growth regulators. Larvae develop in the environment and feed on the flea dirt (adult flea feces) that fall out of the hair coat of the pet. Larvae eventually spin cocoons for pupation. Larvae die at 35°C, so they like to live indoors or outdoors in summer shade. Pupae are resistant to freezing, drying and insecticides. They can lie dormant for many months and emerge only when they detect a dog or cat nearby. Adult Fleas begin feeding within hours of finding a dog or cat but can survive for months without a host. A female flea will produce eggs within 24-48 hours of her first meal and can lay up to 40 eggs per day until she dies. The life span of an adult flea can be 4-6 weeks.

flea cycle

The flea life cycle.

Why Should We Care If Our Pet Has Fleas? Fleas are the most common external parasite seen on dogs and cats. Conditions that can be caused by a flea infestation include: Flea allergy dermatitis – An allergy to the flea bite, which results in severe itchiness at the bite site. This is the most common skin disease in dogs and cats. Tapeworm infection – Fleas carry the tapeworm egg. When a flea-infested dog or cat grooms itself, fleas are ingested and the tapeworm is released into the small intestine of our pet. Anemia – Fleas feed off the blood of our pets. Depending on the size of the dog or cat, and severity of the infestation, anemia can result. Very small pets, puppies and kittens infested with fleas can die from such blood loss. Cat Scratch Fever/Bartonellosis – This disease that can be transmitted to people through the scratch of a flea infected cat. Fleas can lead to a variety of problems for your pet, and one female flea can quickly lead to an infestation in a matter of weeks. Fleas also thrive particularly well in well-regulated indoor temperatures, so your pet can pick up fleas in unsuspecting places. Luckily, there are many safe and effective flea products currently on the market. The best product for you and your pet will depend on whether you are trying to rid an infestation, are being proactive in prevention, considering a flea allergy, or deciding on the formula that suits your family best. When considering a flea control strategy for your pet and home, I recommend that you call Amherst Veterinary Hospital so we can help you determine the most effective and safe option for your pet.


Dr. Loretta Yuen

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