Fleas are every dog owner's nightmare. They are a persistent nuisance and health risk to everyone in the house. These tiny pests have short life spans, but they reproduce at a staggering rate. Immature fleas can lie dormant for a long time, which further complicates treatment efforts.
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Flea Life Cycle
Every flea goes through a four-stage metamorphosis on its short journey from egg to adult. While female fleas can only reproduce for a month or two as adults, they can release over 2,000 eggs in this short time. The eggs shed from the mother's body constantly, so they can spread throughout your home in no time. The eggs hatch into larvae within 10 days of being laid. Favorable environments with a temperature of 75 to 85 degrees and over 50 percent humidity increase the speed and magnitude that a flea hatches, according to the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service.
The Invincible Pupa
After feeding for one to two weeks, the flea larvae weave a protective cocoon around themselves to change into their adult skin. The immature parasite inside the cocoon is called a pupa, and only pupal fleas can lay dormant for extended periods of time. Under ideal conditions, the pupa only remains inside the cocoon for a few weeks before emerging as a hungry adult. Pupal fleas are a real headache for pet owners because they are immune to chemical treatments inside their synthetic shell, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
Once a flea pupa has completed its development inside the cocoon, it will pop out in response to movement or heat from an external source. Since new adults need to feed quickly after weeks of inactivity, this mechanism encourages them to become active when a potential host is nearby. Flea pupa can remain dormant in this stage for up to six months as they wait patiently for the perfect time. Temporary hibernation allows these heat-loving parasites to survive through the chilly winter outside. It also makes it very difficult treat an infestation in a single round of treatment.
Once fleas make it past your front door, it takes at least several weeks to get them under control. Ask your veterinarian about strategies for fighting your flea invasion and puppy-safe products that you can use on your pet. Some pet owners rely on regular applications of topical ointments to prevent flea infestations from ever taking root. Preventive ointments often double as viable treatments, although they can be more expensive than dips, flea combs or shampoo. Keep an eye on your pet over the next month and apply treatment as new adults emerge from their cocoons. Be sure to thoroughly vacuum and clean your floors, furniture and pet accessories as part of your flea treatment.
By Quentin Coleman
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Fleas: A Source of torment for Your Cat
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension: Flea Control
Oklahoma State Cooperative Extension Service: Flea Control
About the Author
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more than 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.