Fleas are more than just annoying; they can carry many serious diseases, parasites and even lead to an overall weakness in your dog’s immune system. In addition fleas can bite other pets and humans in the household leading to infestations, possible allergic reactions and even allergies and skin rashes. Fleas are found almost everywhere in the world, although they tend to be more problematic in warm climates and in more southerly locations. Remember that dogs in kennels or dogs that interact with other dogs are always at risk for flea infestations because not all dog owners are responsible with flea control.
The good news is that there are many effective topical solutions and other vet prescribed treatments to eliminate and control fleas in the house and on the dog. Many of the herbal and homeopathic flea controls are not quite as effective but are still good at some control. There are also a lot of ineffective and fraudulent over-the-counter flea control programs that simply don’t work. Before deciding on a flea control program consult with your veterinarian to decide what will work best for you and your dog.
Flea Life Cycle
Despite being a complete nuisance, fleas actually have an amazing life cycle and it is easy to see why they are so widespread around the world. Their whole lifecycle protects them and gives them the greatest possible opportunity to reproduce, which they do in huge numbers. To understand the life cycle of the flea the stages will be outlined below:
Eggs – the eggs are laid in the hair and are not attached to the follicle, rather they are simply deposited against the skin. This means that the eggs can drop off the dog onto bedding (yours or theirs), furniture, or even onto other pets. The eggs can survive for years under the right conditions. Each female lays about 15-20 eggs per day and about 600 eggs during her lifespan. The eggs hatch in a vary short time ranging from a couple of days to two weeks, depending on the temperature and other conditions.
Larva – approximately 30% of the fleas on a dog are in the larva stage at any given time. There are actually three separate stages to larva but it is important to know that the larva are blind and avoid light at all costs. Dark areas are where they like to live. Folds in bedding and furniture are ideal locations for larva to be found. They eat dried blood found in adult flea fecal material and dead skin. At this time they are not a parasite in the true sense because they do not actually suck blood or affect the dog’s health. The larva stage can last from two weeks to a month or longer.
Pupa – the larva spins a cocoon and rests and develops for five days to fourteen days. During this time they do not consume anything but the cocoon can cause irritation to the dog’s skin if it is on the body or in the bedding.
Adult fleas – adult fleas are the biting and serious stage of development. They bite the skin and suck small amounts of blood from the victim, be it a dog, cat, other animal or human. Fleas can cause allergic reactions in most species and can lead to scabs, dry and flaky patches of skin and even hair loss. Adult fleas cannot reproduce without first ingesting blood but they can go into a form of hibernation for several months if there is no blood available.
Be sure to plan for routine flea control and management for your dog. Watch carefully for any of the signs of fleas, especially flea dirt, in the dog’s coat. Flea dirt is small round dark balls that look like large, black sand grains close to the skin. This is a sure sign of flea infestations and means that immediate treatment is required.