It’s springtime in Nashville, and while spring may have you thinking of baby birds and pretty flowers, it’s also a time when fleas become more active, wreaking havoc on your home and your family.
Fleas are more than just a nuisance. They’re external parasites that transmit diseases that can affect humans and animals, and they’d love nothing more than to make a delicious meal of your furry family member’s blood.
Think fleas won’t happen to your pet? Think again. Fleas can take over even the cleanest home and can live on pets who never go outside. No pet is immune from the threat of fleas, but understanding the sneaky little parasite is your first line of defense. Here’s what you need to know to keep fleas away.
A flea’s life
An external parasite, fleas go through four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Depending on the temperature and humidity levels in the environment, the flea life cycle can take 2 weeks to several months. In the Nashville area, many months of the year provide optimal conditions for fleas, which are 70-85 degrees and about 70 percent humidity.
- Flea eggs make up about half of the total flea population in an environment. After a blood meal, an adult female flea will lay eggs in a pet’s fur. Smaller than a grain of sand and white in color, the eggs will fall off the pet as she moves and will be spread throughout the pet’s environment. Depending on the climate, flea eggs will take 2 days to 2 weeks to develop and hatch, becoming flea larvae.
- Flea larvae represent about 35 percent of the total flea population in an environment at any given time. They develop while eating pre-digested blood that adult fleas pass, which is commonly known as flea dirt. Flea larvae are nearly transparent, about a quarter of an inch long, and have no legs. They are blind and do not like being in the light. If conditions are right, a flea larva will spin a cocoon approximately 5 to 20 days after hatching from their eggs.
- Flea pupae make up about 10 percent of the flea population in an environment. A developing flea can be protected from the elements while inside its cocoon for anywhere from several days to years until the climate is ideal for emergence. A flea’s cocoon has a sticky outer coating that protects it and helps it to stay concealed and safe. From inside the cocoon, a flea can sense when a host is present through body heat, vibrations, or rising levels of carbon dioxide, and will emerge from the cocoon to feed.
- Adult fleas represent only 5 percent of the total flea population in an environment. Once emerging from its cocoon, an adult flea will need to feed on a blood meal within a few hours. A few days later, the adult flea will begin to lay eggs. An adult flea can live on a host animal for up to several months, spending its time feeding, breeding, and laying eggs, which fall off the host and begin the life cycle again. A single flea can lay up to 50 eggs daily and 2,000 eggs in its lifetime, leading to hundreds of thousands of fleas only a few months later.
Did you know?
- The average flea can jump at least one foot, which is equivalent to a person jumping about half a block.
- There are more than 2,200 known flea species and subspecies in North America. The cat flea, or Ctenecphalides felis, is the most common flea to bite dogs. Cat fleas will also bite cats and people.
- Fleas are a year-round problem: Developing fleas can become dormant during the winter months, emerging when conditions are ideal.
- Garlic is not an effective flea preventive. In fact, garlic can be toxic to dogs and cats in large quantities.
- There are many ways for fleas to get inside your home, so even indoor-only pets can be affected by fleas.
Fleas in various life stages can be lurking in your home regardless of the time of year. Use a flea preventive product year-round that kills fleas in all stages of life. And remember, flea products meant for dogs can be toxic to cats, so never use a canine flea medication on your cat.
Questions about which flea control product would be best for your pet? Call our office at 615-383-1000.