Fleas are a great nuisance to our pets and in extreme cases of house infestation, to the owners of the pets. What many people do not realise is that in general terms, 95% of the fleas are in the environment and 5% on their pet. To ensure your pet is free of fleas one needs to understand the flea life-cycle:
Adult fleas require a blood meal to complete their life-cycle. The four stages are:
- Flea eggs are laid on the pet but will drop off into the surrounds and development occurs in, for example, carpets. High humidity and temperature favour rapid hatching – this occurs both indoors and outdoors.
- Flea larvae are very small (2-5mm in length) and feed on organic debris and on adult flea faeces in their environment. They prefer dark areas and therefore in the home will dig deep into the carpets. They are found in shady areas outdoors where pets or wildlife reservoirs lie. Our centrally heated homes provide the optimal conditions for continued winter flea problems.
- The next stage is the pupal stage, which produce a sticky silk-like cocoon. They hatch into adult fleas within 5-10 days with heat and humidity. The adults do not emerge from the cocoon unless stimulated by physical pressure (e.g. walking across carpets), carbon dioxide or heat i.e. potential hosts. This is important as the adult needs to feed within a few days otherwise it dies. Adult fleas within their cocoons will routinely survive for 3-4 months and up to 9 months has been recorded. During this time, they are resistant to most insecticides applied to the environment. Adult fleas are therefore able to emerge into the environment a considerable time after the application of insecticides.
- The emerged adult flea is attracted to light and therefore moves to the surface of the ground cover (carpets, etc) in order to find a passing host. The adult fleas remain on their host for as long as possible. The female flea starts egg production two days after her first blood meal. Females can survive for up to three weeks, laying approximately 50 eggs per day. The entire life-cycle can be completed in 14-21 days under optimal conditions.
Control of fleas must be aimed at eliminating fleas from your pet and strict environmental control. We recommend that you use a long-acting liquid preparation, which is applied to the back of the neck which spreads over the surface of the skin within 24 hours. Appropriate flea products are available from any of our surgeries. In severe cases of flea infestation in your house, we also recommend an environmental spray be applied to the appropriate areas where pets may frequent. Daily vacuum cleaning and weekly washing of pet’s bedding at 60 degrees celsius to help eliminate the flea eggs, larvae and pupae are an integral part of flea control. All your pets must be treated at the same time!
Flea control must be continued throughout the year; if you do not treat your pet and the flea numbers build up in your house, you and your pet will have a very uncomfortable time for approximately 8 weeks after treatment.