What are Fleas?
Are a parasitic insect that feed on the blood of their hosts, causing itching and skin irritation.
They affect domestic pets such as cats and dogs, but also bite humans. They also are a carrier and transmitter of tapeworm.
Fleas can be an environmental problem, so when you are treating your pets for fleas you need to look at the environment as well. They can also affect the young and animals with lowered immune systems.
So what is the life cycle of the Flea?
Fleas are ectoparasites – they live on the outside of the skin. The most common fleas that affects cats and dogs is Ctenocephalides felix which is the cat flea, with the less common flea being Ctenocephalides canis.
The adult flea lives on the animals, the female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day.
When the female need to feed on blood before she can reproduce, so once she has had a blood feed, she lays her eggs, these eggs then fall off the host animal and burrow down into carpet or the pets bedding, along with flea dirt. After 2-5 days the eggs will hatch into larvae, but this can take anything up to several weeks depending on environmental conditions. The larvae feed off flea faeces (flea dirt) which are dried blood and other organic debris in the area, such as dry dead skin etc. The larval stage can take from 5 to 18 days, at which time they spin a silken cocoon and turn into pupae. This is the final stage when they emerge as an adult flea. This can take anything from 5 days to up to a year, once again depending on environmental conditions.
The right conditions are humid weather (Spring and Summer) or vibrations from a passing person or animal so they can hatch and jump right on to their host, this is why when you have been away on holiday, the house has been locked up and you arrive home, and get savaged within minutes on walking in the door.
So why do some pets have more of a problem with fleas that other? This is largely influenced by the immune system. Fleas are parasites, parasites are opportunists. They mainly attack the easy prey which is the young, old and immune compromised animals. An animal with a healthy immune system will not have so much of a problem with fleas.
Some animals develop flea allergic dermatitis, which is an allergy to the flea saliva. The can cause skin inflammation, irritation and distress to the animals and can also lead to secondary skin infections such as pyodermas and hot spots.
Clincial signs are:
- Flea dirt – tiny dark speaks on the skin
- Scratching, itching and bitting
What can you do to help?
There are many things you can do as owner to help keep your pet’s flea free.
- Flea combing your animal
- Regular vacuuming, especially around bedding
- Hot wash bedding fortnightly over the trouble period, putting essential oils in the wash will also help, Tea tree, Eucalyptus are good ones.
- Keeping a healthy immune system with good lifestyle and diet (raw diet).
- Brewers yeast to rub into fur and add to food, Apple cider vinegar added to food
Natural Pets cat and dog range Tagiwig has a homeopathic and herbal remedy called Jumpies, which has been designed specifically pets that suffer from external parasite complaints – fleas. It can be applied to your pet or given internally by adding to their food.