What the Flea?! So you discovered a flea or two on your pet, now what? Well, unfortunately, by the time you find a flea, the problem is already well-established, and it’s not pretty. On your pet, you’re seeing only 5 percent of the whole infestation, so where is the other 95 percent?
In. Your. Home.
While the warmer weather is a reminder that flea season has begun, and fleas do thrive in warm humid weather, they’re actually a threat all year round. The first step in preventing or fighting a flea infestation is to understand their ruthless life cycle.
It is a misconception that fleas jump from pet to pet. In actuality, the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) makes your pet its permanent home due to an endless supply of blood meals.
Fleas are jumpers, leaping 10,000 times in a row—three football fields in length—until they find their host. So let’s jump into how these hearty and nimble pests infest and take over.
There are four stages of life: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult fleas. The adult flea needs a blood meal to reproduce, so she finds your pet, hops on, and—within 1-2 days after her first meal—she lays her eggs.
Now the fun begins. A single flea can produce 50 eggs a day for up to 100 days, potentially generating thousands of eggs during her life. Now imagine more than one flea. You do the math!
The saliva of a flea is irritating and allergenic. When your pet itches, scratches, plays and lounges around your house, she is dusting it with flea eggs. They fall off her body onto your rugs, carpets, bedding and lounge areas.
The eggs are barely visible to the naked eye and hatch into larvae within 10 days, depending on the temperature. The larvae are sensitive, so they burrow deep into your carpet, floors, and bedding.
The end result of the cycle? Your home becomes an ideal breeding ground—as the larvae consume the adult fleas’ blood-based fecal matter. Yes, they eat mom and dad’s poop to survive.
The larvae cocoon themselves and develop into pupae, each made virtually indestructible by its own protective layer. When the conditions are favorable, the pupae emerge from their cocoons as adult fleas. Then the cycle continues.
Aside from an infestation, fleas can cause hair loss, skin damage, hot spots, tapeworms, and even anemia if left untreated. There is no single method or insecticide to completely eradicate the problem, which is why prevention is best. Speak to your veterinarian about prevention or tackling an existing problem. Shoo flea!
by Adriene Buisch
Special to the Baltimore Guide