Fleas - The Survivors

FLEAS – THE SURVIVORS!

 

The weather is getting warmer and flea numbers are increasing!  Take a moment to check out these flea facts explaining why fleas have been around for 100 million years, about the same time as the Tyrannosaurus Rex!  To start with though, we have to understand the flea lifecycle which resembles that of a butterfly.

                                                                     

  

 Female fleas lay eggs which drop off your pet and land in your environment. Eggs then hatch after a variable period into larvae.  The larvae develop into pupae and settle inside a cocoon.  They then wait for a host eg our dog, detected by warmth, vibration, and movement, then unzip the pupae and jump on to start feeding on blood and complete the cycle.  This cycle takes between 2 weeks (in warmer climates eg NZ spring/summer) to 8 months to complete, although in the average household it only takes around 3-4 weeks all year around, especially with household heating in the winter.  5% of the flea population may be found as adults on your pet, however this means that the remainder of the life cycle (95%) is happening in your house eg in the carpets, under beds, in your dog kennel, or in the garden in warm weather!


 

FLEA FACTS

 

  • A flea can survive without a meal for over 100 days
  • A female flea can start laying eggs within 36-48 hours of having a blood feed
  • A female flea can lay up to 2000 eggs within her life cycle
  • A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day which can lay dormant for up to 6 months or become adult fleas within as little as 2 weeks. If your dog has just 5 fleas this means they can lay 3,500 eggs in 2 weeks – then they start to hatch!!
  • A flea can hatch from the pupae and jump onto the dog within 3 seconds
  • A flea can jump as high as 1.25 metres – up to 150 times their own height which compares with us doing a 330 metre long jump!
  • A flea consumes over 15 times her body weight daily in blood.
  • A flea can bite up to 400 times per day meaning if your dog has 10 fleas they may be bitten 4000 times per day.

 

 

TREATMENT

 

After reading these facts we must realise it’s better to prevent flea infestations than to treat them, as once adults are seen you already have a problem.   Eggs cannot be seen on the coat of your pet as they are very tiny and drop off into the environment.  However we can often see tiny black specks throughout the coat which is actually flea faeces – basically just dried blood.   Symptoms that your pet has fleas will vary between individuals.  Some animals may only give the occasional scratch where others are driven mad with intense itching from an allergy to the flea saliva – these animals may cause excessive damage to their coat and skin from constant licking, biting and scratching.  Fortunately there are many effective safe flea products available from your vet that can attack the flea life cycle at different stages.   Beware of some cheaper products as they can contain toxic ingredients such as organophosphates, of which I have seen pets die from owners applying too much.  The most effective treatment are the veterinary based products that last up to 2 months by storing in the oily glands of the skin – yet are very safe.