Fleas - Life cycle, treatments and secondary problems

Santa Cruz Vet takes a bite out of your flea problem

Fleas are no scratching matter

A common parasite, fleas are found in almost every area of the U.S. on almost every animal. They survive year to year even in cold climates because they live on pets, in buildings, and on wild animals.

There are four stages to the flea life cycle:

  • An adult female lays the eggs onto a host animal.
  • The eggs then roll off into the environment maturing after a few days into larvae. Larvae survive by eating eat flea feces, flea egg shells, organic debris, and other flea larvae.
  • After a few days, and once conditions are conducive, larvae mature into pupae which have very thick shells and are resistant to environmental conditions.
  • After a few more days, and once the pupae detect a host is present, they mature into adult fleas that hop on another host.

There are many types of flea treatments, but unfortunately none that can kill all four stages of the flea. There are several types of good products to kill adult fleas: Frontline, Advantage, Comfortis, Capstar, and Revolution. Older products of various formulations of synthetic pyrethrins are also available, some of which are highly toxic to cats. Lufenuron and methoprene are chemicals that work on immature stages of the flea. There is no chemical that will kill the pupal stage.

Fleas, while they themselves are a health problem, can also cause secondary problems such as:

  • Tapeworms
  • Cat scratch disease (Bartonella)
  • Murine typhus
  • Bubonic plague
  • Fleas are also the number one allergen of dogs and cats and can cause severe skin disease.

Your veterinarian can help you with a flea control program depending on what kind of pets you have and the level of flea infestation. Control may involve treating the environment as well as the pets.

If you see your pet frequently scratching or suspect that they have fleas call or stop by our West Side Santa Cruz animal hospital today, we can help.
Companion Animal Hospital, a Santa Cruz, CA veterinary office  • 2301 Mission Street • 831.425.1970
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