Fleas are the most common of all external parasites found on pets. The cat flea is the most prevalent species of flea found on both cats and dogs. An infestation of fleas is both unpleasant and potentially dangerous for pets and their owners.
A flea‘s life cycle lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a month, though under the right conditions it can continue for much longer. During the lifecycle fleas go through a complete metamorphosis in three main stages:
- Adult fleas jump on to a host (e.g. cat, dog or human) and within minutes begin feeding on the host’s blood. The flea bites lead to itching and irritation and may also transmit serious diseases.
- In less than 48 hours fleas begin laying numerous flea eggs that quickly fall off the animal into the environment.
- In a few days these eggs hatch into flea larvae. These larvae dislike light and immediately crawl deep into carpets and cracks in floors making them hard to spot. The larvae spin cocoons in which they develop into pupae and when conditions are right they emerge as new adult fleas ready to jump onto a warm-blooded host and perpetuate the cycle.
A single female can lay up to 50 eggs per day. In one month, 10 females could lay up to 15000 eggs. The pet spreads flea eggs everywhere it goes, leading to a massive infestation in the home environment. A flea can jump as far as 33 cm in one leap, so infestation of other pet sand humans is easy. Fleas measure 1-2 mm making them hardly visible. For every 5 fleas on the animal, 95 are invisible in the environment (eggs falling off the animal, existing eggs, larvae and pupae in the environment).
The whole home, including carpets, sofas, beds and the entire environment of the pet can be heavily infested by flea eggs and larvae, which are the seeds of future pet re-infestation. Vacuuming will only remove a small number of eggs and larvae because they are hidden deep in floors and rugs, and entwined in the fibres. Fleas can survive up to 6 months in the environment.
A single flea will bite its host around 10 times a day and ingest up to 15 times its weight in blood. Fleas also start to feed very shortly after landing on their host; 25% of fleas take their first feed within 5 minutes and 97%within an hour. This means that in cases of heavy infestation, fleas can produce anaemia in otherwise healthy animals, and in extreme cases, even death in smaller animals.
One of the main factors that allow fleas to rapidly complete their lifecycle is warmth, central heating therefore means fleas can reproduce all year round.
Wherever you live in the UK there is a risk that your cat could pick up ticks. Cats are inquisitive and ticks can be found anywhere, including in long grass, parks, meadows, woodlands and even occasionally within the home. Ticks can transmit potentially serious diseases including Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichia and Rickettsial diseases.
To stay on top of fleas and ticks pets should be treated regularly as this can considerably reduce the chance of flea re-infestations. Being proactive about prevention is important with any health condition. Fleas and ticks can be found all year round and can multiply rapidly, so it is important to treat your pets on a regular basis –usually monthly. You should ask your vet and the practice staff for advice.
Our Well Pet Club is the easiest way to stay on top of preventative treatments. You will receive reminders when products are due and you can spread the cost of flea, worm and tick treatment over 12 months. You will also receive great savings across other areas of our practice!