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What They Are: These agile, wingless insects feed on hematophagy off the blood of mammals and birds. They are very commonly found on dogs, cats, rabbits, and other species. Although preventing these pesky parasites is quite simple, they can be quite difficult to rid. And because they can be difficult to rid and tough to see, they can be lethal to our dogs and cats!
Life Cycles: Eggs - An adult female lays eggs following a blood feeding from a host (your pet). The female adult flea can lay up to 40-50 eggs per day in bunches of about 20 per area. As your pet moves about your home, these eggs drop in several areas. Eggs can take anywhere from two days to two weeks to develop.
Larvae - Once the eggs hatch, the larvae will spend the next several weeks developing by eating the pre-digested blood known as "flea dirt" that is left behind by the adult fleas. They are born blind and will be avoiding any sort of light. If all goes well for the larvae, they will begin spinning cocoons after 5-20 days.
Pupae - This is the last stage before the adult flea emerges. The cocoon is very strong serves as protection for the pupae during the final stages of development. That being said, if the environmental conditions are not suitable for emergence, the cocoon can protect the developing flea for months and even years. This is where the carpet comes into play as it is known as the biggest place where fleas reside. Because the cocoon is quite sticky, it allows them to hide deep into carpet where neither vacuuming or sweeping can get them out.
Adult Flea - Once the developing flea has been alerted within it's cocoon of a possible host from vibrations, body heat, & a change in Carbon Dioxide levels, it emerges. The fleas will need to feed within a few hours of emerging. Once they do, they will begin the breeding and lay down eggs within a few days. They then spend the rest of their life on the host eating, breeding, and laying eggs anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months.
Common Myths: "My pet cannot have fleas because he lives indoors only" - Fleas are quite the accomplished jumpers are are able to hitch a ride on you, your clothing, etc., and drop off into the flooring of your home whether it be carpet or wood. Once that happens, they can easily jump onto your pet within your home. They are even able to thrive in well-regulated temperatures within your home as well.
"I don't see any fleas so therefore my pet does not have them" - If your pet is frequently licking or scratching, you would not see them as they may be licked away.
"My pet does not need prevention in the wintertime as there are no fleas imminent in the colder months." - Although we all wish this were true, it is not. If your pet had fleas during the warmer months, there is a great chance they will continue to have these through the cold months as fleas are able to thrive in your home. Plus due to the many life cycles of fleas, they do not disappear quickly.
Health Concerns: If left untreated, your pet may develop severe allergies to the fleas bites that is called flea allergy dermatitis and can continue scratching their skin long after the fleas have gone. Fleas are also responsible to transmitting tapeworms to dogs, cats, and even humans. For example, if your dog or cat were to come into contact with a wild rabbit in the backyard that has a flea infestation, those fleas can pass on the tapeworm problem the rabbit has to your dog or cat. For more health concerns, please check out our Health Library Center.
Treatment & Prevention
Prevention: The best way to ensure that your pet does not get fleas is to keep him/her on regular prevention medication all year round. PetMed Animal Health Center supplies both topical and oral prevention for dogs and topical only prevention for cats. For dogs we carry Activyl (topical) & Bravecto (oral). For cats, we carry Activyl.
Treatment: If your pet has fleas, please understand that it is not going to take a week to a month to treat. Because of the many life cycles in fleas, it could take up to three months to completely rid your pet and home of them. The first thing you should do is treat ALL of your pets in your home with regular prevention medication from your veterinarian. Make sure to thoroughly clean and vacuum your home regularly as you are able to. As mentioned above, you are not only taking care of the adults, but all life stages of the fleas.
Dogs-Bravecto (for fleas and ticks)
Dogs-Activyl (for fleas and ticks)
Cats-Activyl (for fleas and ticks)