The flea and tick life cycles are often misunderstood and therefore mismanaged in their treatment and prevention. This in turn leads pet owners down a road of failed products, tons of money lost, and an enormous amount of frustration. Deciding which product is right for your pet is best done by your veterinary team. We will look at factors such as: the environment, the lifestyle of the pet, other pets or vectors, the potential side effects of products, route of application, and cost comparisons of different products. Flea and tick prevention and control is never a one size fits all, but rather a tailored protocol for each individual pet.
The flea life cycle is somewhat complex. The adult flea seen on your pet is capable of producing up to 40-50 eggs per day. On average, given a flea will normally live about 3-4 weeks, that means a single female flea can have up to 2000 babies. Contrary to popular belief, fleas normally do not jump from pet to pet. The adult flea has the perfect environment on the fur of a dog or cat, so there is no need to jump ship to another pet. However, the eggs produced by the fleas (about the size of a grain of salt) are constantly falling off the pet and contaminating the environment. Once the eggs fall off the pet, they will hatch to a larval stage. This stage is mobile and generally avoids light by diving deep into carpet and loose dirt. Just a caterpillar goes into a cocoon before hatching into a butterfly, the flea larval stage also go into a cocoon to complete their development into an adult flea. These cocoons await the next animal to move into the area. Sensing heat and vibration, the awaiting flea in the cocoon hatches open, springs upon the pet, and begins feeding immediately. The flea will eat first, lay it’s eggs after 12-18 hours of being on your pet, and then begin defecating the digest blood meal taken from your pet. While fleas are often hard to see, most owner can readily see “flea dirt” which is essentially the feces of the fleas. If you are seeing flea feces, there is no doubt that flea eggs have contaminated your environment and the cycle has begun.
This entire life cycle takes on average about 6-8 weeks to complete. For this reason, a single application or environmental treatment after fleas are present will most always fail. Most single treatments at best will kill or prevent fleas for 3-4 weeks. It may take weeks to months to completely rid a pet and it’s environment of fleas. An example of treating a dog AFTER a flea outbreak may look like this:
For this reason, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Prevent flea and tick infestations before it becomes a problem. While there are numerous products on the market, we at Grace Animal Hospital only recommend what we use on our pets. After addressing the needs of you and your pet, we will recommend the best product for your furry companion. Some of our personal favorites are listed below: