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Par Catherine Lapierre, TSAc, le May 25, 2015

 With the arrival of good weather and heat, also comes the arrival of the fleas. These parasites, although they are very small can cause many headaches to the infested animal as to its owner!

         A single female flea lays up to 50 eggs a day, and up to 2000 eggs during her life. When we begin to see fleas on the animal or in the environment, it means that they are present for at least a month. Only the fleas are visible to the naked eye and they represent only 5% of the infestation.

         Let us summarize the life cycle of fleas. Adult fleas, which can live up to 100 days, bite the animal and feed on the blood, and this, in a few seconds or minutes after arriving on their host. After a good meal, they mate and in the space of 24 hours the females produce eggs. They fall everywhere in the environment both outside and inside, representing 50% of the infestation. Then comes the stage of larvae. Representing 35% of the infestation, they are like small worms, able to move and hide. They prefer dark places. That’s why they are often found at the bottom of carpets, bedding or in any other place away from light. After that, the larvae become pupae. At this point, small cocoons can remain in the house for several months, even up to one year. The pupae represent 10% of the infestation. When conditions are favorable, the flea comes out of its cocoon and is already looking for a host. Then the cycle starts again from the beginning.

        There are preventive treatments, to avoid ending up with an infestation. Flea prevention in domestic animals can begin from the month of May. But, from one year to another there can be changes depending if there is early heat or adequate moisture for their survival. Prevention must be made until November, or until there are 3 nights of freezing ground. Often people stop prevention prematurely because cold starts, but it is often the most risky period for infestations. The fleas look for the heat, which they find with your pet’s body heat.

         In the case of a flea infestation, there are also treatments available. You have to treat all the animals of the house for a minimum of six months, as the dormant pupae can last very long in the environment. By treating the animals in the house and letting them wander wherever they usually walk, the environment will be treated simultaneously. It is also advised to vacuum often, especially on carpets, and wash and dry heat tissue.

        Contrary to popular belief, not all animals that have fleas will scratch. Only those who are allergic will do it, causing allergic dermatitis by flea bites. A flea-infested animal may experience itching and agitation. In case of severe infestations, anemia can be noted, since fleas feed on the animal blood. Finally, they can also lead to tapeworms’ infection, which are intestinal parasites. Fleas can also bite humans, even if they prefer to stay on animals. If you get bitten by fleas, you will see small red dot appear on your skin, which can cause itching.

        Don’t hesitate to contact a member of staff of the Ste-Rose Veterinary Hospital, to obtain more information on the subject. Prevention can be already started and could save you a lot of trouble!

Catherine Lapierre, certified animal health technician


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