The Basics of Fleas
There's nothing quite like the look on a pet owner's face when we tell them their pet has fleas. It's somewhere between horrified and disbelief. Fleas are tricky little critters--and in the case of fleas--an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Flea infestations happen quickly and resolve very slowly, with the cycle taking, at the very least, many months to completely resolve.
Flea infestations can cause a pet a variety of problems from minor skin irritation to more severe problems such as anemia. So, yes, pets can actually die because of a flea infestation. When a pet has fleas on them, which are too numerous to count, all taking multiple blood meals per day, the amount of blood consumed by the fleas leaves the pet without enough blood in their body to survive. Although this is rare, it is 100% preventable. Some more common issues associated with flea infestations are flea allergic dermatitis and tapeworms.
It helps to understand the life cycle of the flea in order to help prevent an infestation. Let's take a look:
The Life Cycle of Fleas
Step one: An adult flea jumps on your pet and your pet becomes what is known as a host. The adult flea can live up to several weeks on your pet and during that time will take 2-3 blood meals per day while living on your pet. Each day, the flea will lay 20 to 30 eggs and those eggs fall off of your pet and onto the carpet, bedding, yard, or anywhere else your pet goes.
Step two: The eggs will develop where they fall and since they are significantly smaller than adult fleas, can get into small cracks and crevices. The amount of time they take to hatch can vary between 2 days and 2 weeks.
Step three: Once the eggs hatch, they are known as Larva, little worm-like creatures that live in carpet fibers, bedding, even outside in the environment. During this stage, which normally lasts between 5 and 18 days depending on the environment, the larva will molt twice and then form a cocoon and become pupa.
Step four: The time a flea stays in the cocoon can vary greatly and can emerge in as few as 3 days or it can stay in the cocoon for up to a year if the environment is not favorable. Once the flea detects there is a host nearby, mostly by heat and vibrations, the adult flea will emerge from its cocoon, jump on the host and the life cycle starts again.
Here in the south, fleas do not ever go away! It is amazing how many pet owners stop giving their pets flea prevention in the winter months. In this map provided by Bayer Animal Health, you can see that fleas in Georgia are active all year round.
The best defense against fleas is a strong offense. Monthly flea prevention is the number one key to safeguarding your pets against flea infestations. There are many options on the market to choose from and your best option will always come from your veterinarian. Over the counter flea prevention does not work and some over the counter products are known to cause severe neurological deficits including death.
There are several different ways in which flea prevention products work on fleas. The products we always recommend work by killing adult fleas. If you are able to kill the adult fleas, they can not lay eggs and the flea cycle stops there.
Pets on flea prevention will still have fleas occasionally, but the difference is, that flea will die and will never be able to lay eggs making an infestation impossible. If you are battling a flea infestation, it is very important to also treat your pet's environment to shorten the amount of time it takes to recover. We recommend you vacuum daily to remove any flea eggs and larva and also frequently wash bedding and blankets used by your pets.
If you believe your pet may be suffering from fleas, the best option is to consult your veterinarian and work together to find the preventative that is right for your pet.
Dr. Chaffin Roseberry
4317 Evans to Locks Road
Evans, GA 30809