The arrival of spring brings longer days, sunny skies, beautiful flowers, and, unfortunately, fleas!!  Fleas are small, blood sucking, external parasites that commonly affect pets.  In addition to causing discomfort, fleas have the potential to cause serious medical problems; therefore an effective flea prevention program is essential.

Fleas have specialized mouth parts tailored for penetrating skin and sucking the host’s blood.  When a flea bites your pet, it inserts a tiny amount of its saliva into the skin.  Some pets are allergic to this saliva which results in severe itching and inflammation.  This leads to excessive scratching and chewing by the pet which damages the skin causing hair loss, redness, and bacterial infections.

Besides causing dermatitis, fleas act as the intermediate host in the transmission of tapeworms.  If your pet ingests an adult flea that is infected with tapeworm larvae, he/she will likely develop a tapeworm infection and you will notice tapeworm segments in the stool.

Life Cycle of Fleas

The flea has four stages to their life cycle; egg, larva, pupa, and adult.  Their life span varies from weeks to months depending on the environment in which they are living.  Understanding the life cycle of the flea is imperative for successful prevention and control.

  • Egg: Adult fleas lay eggs soon after taking a blood meal and produce about 50 eggs a day. Eggs laid on the animal will fall off into the environment and hatch within a few days.
  • Larva: Larva emerges from the egg and goes through three larval stages. Once mature, the larva spins a cocoon and enters the pupa stage. The larva survives by feeding on adult flea feces, dead skin, dander, hair, and other organic material.
  • Pupa: The pupa develops into an adult flea within the cocoon that was spun in the larval stage. Under ideal conditions, the flea will emerge within a few weeks; however pupa can remain dormant in the environment for many months.
  • Adult: An adult flea emerges from its cocoon when the conditions are appropriate and they sense a host. The flea will jump on a host immediately and begin feeding on a blood meal.  Within a couple days, a female flea will begin laying eggs thus restarting the life cycle.

Identifying Fleas

If you notice your pet scratching or biting at his/her skin, it is a good idea to inspect your pet for fleas.  The best way to look for adult fleas is to comb your pet with a flea comb and inspect the hair collected for both adult fleas and flea dirt.

Flea dirt is the fecal material that adult fleas produce and appears as blackish specks in the fur.  To verify the presence of flea dirt, place the black specks on a paper towel and add a few drops of water.  If the material dissolves and turns red then it is flea dirt.

Preventing and Controlling Fleas

Implementing a year round flea prevention program is the best way to protect your pet, as well as save you a lot of time, money, and aggravation from flea infestation. There are many products available to treat and control fleas but it is best to use a high-quality, safe, and effective product.

Keysville Mobile Vet will now be carrying a new product called Credelio. Credelio is a monthly chewable medication that acts fast to protect against fleas and ticks. It starts to kill fleas 4 hours after administration and 100% of fleas are killed in 12 hours throughout the month.

For cats, we will continue to carry Bravecto which is a topical spot-on every three month treatment that is safe and effective for cats.