Flea Life Cycle
The life cycle of the flea is divided into two phases:
- Parasitic phase – adult fleas feeding and reproducing on the animal.
- Free-living phase – eggs laid by the adult flea drop off the animal and continue to develop in the environment. The new immature flea then jumps onto an animal and commences the parasitic phase again.
The immature flea jumps onto the animal and begins to ingest its first blood meal almost immediately. Mating usually occurs within 8 to 24 hours, allowing the laying of eggs within 24 to 28 hours of first infesting the dog or cat (Dryden, 1994). The female flea is capable of laying eggs for an average of 100 days and it has been reported that fleas may live up to 113 days on cats (Dryden, 1995).
The flea’s ability to multiply is phenomenal. The female flea lays, on average, 27 eggs per day over 50 days (a total of 1350 eggs per flea). Most of these eggs are usually laid within the first 10 days of infestation. Approximately 40% of eggs will survive and develop through to the adult. If the female flea survives only one week, she may have laid 162 eggs, of which 65 may develop through to the adult stage within 3 weeks.
The life cycle can be completed in as little as 2-4 weeks under appropriate weather conditions. The following graph illustrates the enormous reproductive capacity of the flea if permitted to multiply uninterrupted on the animal.
Ctenocephalides felis (the cat flea) must ingest blood in order to reproduce and lay fertile eggs successfully. Once they drop off the animal and hatch, the larvae feed on the feces of adult fleas and also other organic debris.
If you suspect your dog or cat has fleas, call our office. We can look at your dog or cat and verify the flea infestation. We will also talk you through the clean-up process at this visit.
We may give your animal a medication called Capstar. This is a fast acting oral flea control medication and usually starts to work within 30 minutes.
We will also apply a topical flea and tick control medication, such as Frontline. These types of products will help eliminate the other stages of the flea life cycle, except for the pupa stage. The pupa will have to grow into an adult flea in order to be affected by the flea and tick control medication.
The fleas will also be in your home, especially where your animal has been, such as couches, chairs, bedding (human and animal) and carpet. The first step is to vacuum everything as soon as the flea infestation as been identified. Fleas love to hide under items such as couches, dining room hutches, beds and dressers.
Everything will need to be cleaned or laundered, especially soft items such as pillows, bedding or stuffed animals and your clothing. Knockout E.S. is a product to assist you in the clean up process. It should be applied to surfaces per the label instructions. If you get a product from the store, please be sure it is safe for cats, dogs, and children.
Floors without carpets need to be vacuumed first and then can be mopped with its regular floor treatment. If you feel you need to use bleach, please add a small amount to the mop water.
To rid your home of a flea infestation is a process that can last several months of diligent cleaning and keeping your animal on a flea and tick control medication to stop future infestations. If you have further questions about fleas, flea infestations or the best flea and tick control product for you pet, please call our office.