By understanding the flea life cycle and its habitat, you'll be taking the first step to getting rid of fleas - for good!
Dog fleas love dark, warm, moist conditions; in fact they thrive in these conditions.
Temperature and humidity can have a considerable impact on the length of their life cycle.
In summer, their complete life cycle can take only two or three weeks; when the weather is cooler however, it can take up to 2 years for the flea to complete its life cycle.
Warmer weather is the main reason dog fleas are more prolific in summer.
The flea life cycle consists of four distinct stages: adult, eggs, larvae, and pupae.
Adult fleas will feed on blood from your dog, or you, if they get the opportunity - they're not fussy!
Once fleas settle on a host, they will feed, mate, and then lay eggs.
The adult female flea can lay between 30 and 50 eggs a day, and up to 200 in her lifetime.
Adults account for only 5% of the flea population meaning that the other 95% are somewhere in the flea life cycle, on their way to becoming adult fleas!
Adult fleas can live up to 100 days; however, they don't normally live for much longer than 10 days on your dog. This is because either your dog will remove them while grooming or they're removed when a flea control is used to treat your dog.
New adults (those that haven't yet fed on blood) feed on flea faeces, dead skin, and fungus and can live up to two years without feeding on blood.
However, they cannot produce eggs until after their first blood meal. But, once they've fed on blood, they must feed every few hours. Because of this, adult fleas are more likely to be found on your dog (their feeding ground!) and immature fleas are more likely to be found in your dog's bedding or around the home.
Flea eggs are oval, opalescent and about the size of a grain of salt.
Depending upon the temperature and humidity, they may hatch between two days and two weeks.
Flea eggs don't need to reside on your dog to survive.
They may be laid in your dog's coat but, because flea eggs are dry and loose, they fall easily from your dog onto carpets, bedding, furniture, and grass; in fact, they can be left anywhere where your dog has visited.
The eggs can survive most conditions and can endure severe changes in temperature, drying out, and even some household chemicals.
They can lie dormant for up to two years and, as soon as conditions are just right, they will begin to develop.
Just when we think we've won the war against fleas, back they come!
The larva breaks through the egg 'shell' using a hard spike on the top of it's head known as a chitin tooth. The flea will lose this cutting tooth during the moulting process, as it matures.
Flea larvae are about 3mm long and look similar to maggots.
They are blind, avoid light, and prefer humid conditions, which is why they're more likely to be found in dark, sheltered places such as cracks, crevices, under furniture or in your dog's bedding.
They feed on dried blood from the faeces of adult fleas, hair, dead skin, and other organic matter found deep in the pile of your carpets, rugs, and your dog's sleeping area.
Larvae moult through three stages, or instars, lasting from 5 days to several months depending upon conditions, growing larger between each moulting stage.
When the third and final stage is complete, they spin a silken cocoon to which pet hair, carpet fibres, dust, etc. adhere, forming a protective camouflage. When conditions are right, they pupate.
The pupa is the final stage where the larval form changes to an adult flea inside the cocoon.
The pupal stage lasts between a week and ten days. However, the flea may remain in the cocoon, protected against the elements and predators, for a year or more, waiting for the right conditions before emerging.
Such conditions would be warmth, humidity, vibration, or carbon dioxide - signs that a food source and accommodation, ie animals or humans, are nearby.
And so the process begins again; the fleas find a suitable host, they feed, mate, and the female lays eggs.
Depending upon conditions, the duration of the flea life cycle is variable; it may be as short as two weeks or as long as two years.
All the more reason to always be on the look out for evidence of dog fleas, such as eggs or dried blood (little black specks, which, when moistened turn red).
If you'd like to see how dog fleas look close up, click here, but be warned - it's not for the squeamish!
If your dog has fleas, there's a good chance that you may get bitten, and if you do, you can learn how to treat flea bites on humans and dogs here.
If you discover your dog is playing host to these pesky parasites, you can learn more about getting rid of fleas on your dog here.
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