What is a flea’s life cycle? How can we protect our pets and how can we treat our homes to get rid of them?
Fleas can be a very big nuisance for pets’ parents. Knowing a flea’s life cycle can help you tackle this issue the right way and prevent them from coming back.
I have broken down the short guide below, so that you get an insight on all the key information that will help you fight flea infestations.
Types of Fleas
The 6 most common types of fleas which affect dogs and cats are:
- Cat flea
- Dog fea
- Human flea
- Oriental rat flea
- Tropical hen flea
- Rabbit flea
Cat flea: Its scientific name is Ctenocephalides felis and its principal host is the domestic cat.
Adults of both sexes range from 1–2 mm long and are usually a reddish-brown colour.
The cat flea affects both cats and dogs and can also maintain its life cycle on other species. These, however, are just chosen as a backup if their chosen host is unavailable. Adult fleas do not normally leave their hosts, so inter-animal transfer is rare, unless these animals are sleeping in the same place. Once the flea separates from its host, it will often die within hours.
Dog flea: Its scientific name is Ctenocephalides canis and its principal hosts are dogs and cats.
The dog flea can cause tapeworm in both dogs and cats if left untreated. They mainly feed on dogs and cats’ blood but they can also bite humans.
They can lay up to 4000 eggs both on the host’s fur and the environment they live in, making infestation control a real challenge.
Human flea: Also called ‘House flea‘. Its scientific name is Pulex irritans and its principal host is humans but it can also infest cats, dogs, and many other domestic animals, particularly pigs.
Their eggs are often laid on the body of the host, but they often fall off and therefore will be found on carpets, the host’s bed, etc.
The human flea can be a carrier of the plague bacterium. Plague killed millions of people in Eurasia during the Middle Ages. Without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death.
Oriental rat flea: Also called ‘Tropical rat flea‘. Its scientific name is Xenopsylla cheopis and its principal hosts are rodents.
It is a primary vector for bubonic plague and murine typhus. This happens when the flea has fed on an infected rodent and then bites a human. Diseases can be transmitted from one generation of fleas to the next through the eggs.
They can live up to a year and can stay in the cocoon stage for up to a year if the conditions are not favourable.
Tropical hen flea: Its scientific name is Echidnophaga gallinacea and its principal host is poultry, however they can also bite cats and dogs.
If these types of fleas are left uncontrolled, they can cause anaemia, loss of condition, severe skin irritation and sometimes death.
Females can remain attached for up to 6 weeks at a single site on the host, causing ulceration. Fleas can also congregate around the eyes and other naked skin on poultry and they become hard to remove as their heads are embedded in the host’s skin.
Rabbit flea: Its scientific name is Spilopsyllus cuniculi and its principal hosts are rabbits but they can also be found on cats and dogs and also certain seabirds.
These fleas can act as a vector for the virus that causes the rabbit disease myxomatosis.
This virus can cause death, so it is important to recognise its symptoms, such as swelling of the lips and eyelids, skin tumours and conjunctivities.
When is Flea Season?
Flea season depends on where you live. Fleas love warm weather, so summer is definitely the peak season, however, having the heating on in winter will also make the house warm enough for it to become a great environment for the fleas.
Fleas survive in dormant state in winter under the right conditions, so even though they won’t be bothering your pets, they will still be present, waiting for the right opportunity to attack.
How Can I Tell if My Pet Has Fleas?
Signs that your pet has got fleas include:
- Hair loss or sore patches
- Redness and irritation
- Thickened skin in areas
- Visible small specks in their fur
- Flea bites…on yourself!
Keeping Fleas Away from your Pets
It is important that fleas are kept away from your pets, to avoid itchiness and diseases. Here are some of the steps to take in order to keep these horrible creatures away from you fluffy babies:
- Use flea treatment. Ask your veterinarian for advice on what product to use and how often you should use it
- Worm your pets, so that they are also protected from tapeworm which is caused by fleas
- Groom your pet regularly, using a flea comb
- Keep your pet and their bedding clean
Treating your Home the Right Way
The flea’s life cycle is split into 4 phases, so it is important to use the right tools depending on the stage.
The 4 phases are:
- Egg: When the host animal moves around, they deposit flea eggs anywhere
- Larva: This is when the eggs hatch.
- Pupa: The larvae grow and form a cocoon
- Adult: The adult emerges from the cocoon and jumps on the available host
The above process can take up to two to three weeks or even several months, depending on the conditions.
As you can see, starting from the egg, fleas are not just present on your pets but also in the environment they live…AKA your house! Eeek!!!
It is therefore important that you follow the steps below in order for you to treat your house as well as your pets:
- Vacuum regularly
- Wash curtains, sofa covers, bed covers, pet bedding and any other washable fabrics
- Flea treat your pets
- Use a flea spray in your home
- If you have carpets, make sure you regularly carpet clean your house
The video below will give you a visual understanding of the flea’s life cycle:
Have you ever had to fight flea infestation? If so, what did you do?
Please let me know if I have missed anything in this short guide 🙂
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PS: Now that you have read this guide, you might also be interested in this article 🙂