Monday, April 23, 2007


Flea is the common name for any of the small wingless insects of the order Siphonaptera (some authorities use the name Aphaniptera because it is older, but names above family rank do not follow the rules of priority, so most taxonomists use the more familiar name). Fleas are external parasites, living by hematophagy off the blood of mammals and birds, and genetic and morphological evidence indicates that they are descendants of the Scorpionfly family Boreidae, which are also flightless; accordingly it is possible that they will eventually be reclassified as a suborder within the Mecoptera. In the past, however, it was most commonly supposed that fleas had evolved from the flies (Diptera), based on similarities of the larvae.

The Flea life cycle

The entire life cycle can be as short as 2-4 weeks.

Understanding how fleas live, and breed, makes it easier to understand the best methods available to eradicate a flea problem.

One female adult flea can lay anything from four to 40 eggs a day, with the highest concentration of egg-laying occurring in the final two to three days of life. Eggs are oval, around 0.5mm long, white and rounded at both ends. The eggs are non-sticky and so, once laid, they immediately fall onto the ground, wherever the pet travels.

Depending upon the temperature and humidity, the eggs will hatch into larvae within one to ten days. Humidity below 50% will cause desiccation and destruction of eggs. The environment in which the eggs are deposited is therefore of prime importance to survival rates and helps to explain why warmer winters and hot summers have increased flea populations considerably in recent years.


A larva will hatch from an egg using a chitin tooth - an egg splitting spine on its head. This disappears when the larva changes into the second of its three 'moults' or development stages. It is this tooth that is affected by modern, oral flea treatments which contain an insect development inhibitor, as the treatment renders the chitin tooth ineffective and prevents the larvae hatching from the egg.

Larvae are semi-transparent and sparsely covered in short hairs. They are usually white with a yellow-brownish head and are generally quite active. They are dependent on a diet of adult flea faeces (which consists mainly of dried blood) for survival, but will also feed on other organic debris in your carpet.

In a home environment, flea larvae are found at the base of the carpet pile, where they can encounter food, are sheltered by the canopy of carpet fibre and can keep away from direct light.
The larvae develop through three moults, or changes, before reaching the pupal stage. The time this takes varies from 7-18 days and is once again dependent on the environmental temperatures. Moisture is vital and relative humidity below 50% will cause desiccation and death.

After the third moult, the larva moves to a quiet, undisturbed place to begin spinning a silk cocoon coated with particles of debris picked up from its surroundings for use as camouflage.


It is within the cocoon that the larvae turns into the next stage of development - the pupa.

From this stage, the adult flea develops. The fully formed adult flea remains in the cocoon until stimulated to hatch by, for example, warmth, vibration and exhaled carbon dioxide from a passing pet - or even human!

Development of the flea within the cocoon is also affected by temperature and humidity. Low relative humidity is harmful to the cocooned adult whereas higher relative humidity and higher temperatures result not only in speedier hatching but in bigger fleas!

Pupae subjected to suitable hatching conditions can emerge as adult fleas as early as three to five days following pupation. However, be warned - they can also remain unhatched for up to a year and can cause a re-occurrence of a flea problem if you relax your guard. This phenomenon is known as the 'pupal window' and you need to be aware of it before effective flea treatment can begin.

The pupal window. The pupal window is defined as the period in which fleas are still seen to hatch once an effective flea control regime has been started. By 'effective', we mean a regime that includes an oral insect development inhibitor with or without a household spray.

Environmental sprays and powders can't readily penetrate the cocoon and therefore have no effect on the maturing adult inside if used on their own.

These fleas continue to hatch from their protective cocoons and, unless the flea control regime is maintained, will be the source of the next generation of fleas ready to cause you and your pet more problems!

The pupal window usually only remains 'open' for 1-2 months following the start of a flea control regime but, in some extreme cases, fleas, in their protective cocoons, have been known to live within a house without food for considerable periods of time. This means the pupal window period may extend for several more months after treatment is started.

This cunning feature of the flea is the reason why continuous flea control is needed - the easiest method is to use the new monthly flea treatments simply given to pets in their food.


As soon as possible after the adult flea has hatched from the cocoon, it will begin looking for its first blood meal. Unlike the flea larva, which tends to move downwards and away from light towards protective covering (e.g. the carpet base), adult fleas move upwards and towards the light, in order to be in a better position to locate a suitable host.

A flea's eyesight is not brilliant and so air currents and carbon dioxide in the air appear to be responsible for helping the flea find a target. Air currents will be caused by a cat or dog moving past the adult flea, whilst the carbon dioxide increases are caused by the cat or dog breathing in close proximity to the waiting adult.

Adult fleas have been known to jump as many as 10,000 times in succession, whilst trying to leap onto a passing cat or dog - the flea knows they are close by but it's more a question of luck than judgment when trying to make a successful connection between the hooks on the flea's legs and the fur on the cat or dog.

However, once satisfactorily 'anchored', the flea will immediately begin to feed with females starting to lay eggs within 48 hours of the first feed.

Before taking in blood, the flea secretes saliva into the wound. This contains a substance that softens and spreads the skin tissue, assisting with penetration. The saliva also contains an anticoagulant to help with the feeding. It is flea saliva that is usually the cause of allergic reactions in cats, dogs - and humans.

Once on a suitable host, the adult fleas will remain there until they die, which is usually within one to two weeks. Unfortunately for the pet (although fortunately for the flea population) female fleas tend to live longer than males - there are also more females than males. If a dog or cat is left to groom itself normally (and cats groom more thoroughly than dogs on the whole), many adult fleas will also be dislodged or swallowed naturally. However, if for any reason, a cat or dog is unable to groom itself - it may be ill for example - then the owner should groom it more frequently than usual, to mirror the pet's natural methods of flea control.

Where Fleas Hide?

No matter what the weather is like outside, the climate inside your home is always perfect for supporting an entire population of fleas.

Take a look at the picture below to learn where fleas like to make themselves at home:

How can I tell if my pet has fleas?

The simplest way to tell if your pet has fleas is by finding the adult fleas or the flea feces (often called "flea dirt") on the animal. Brush your pet over a white sheet or paper towel and look for small dark specks. Flea feces contain digested blood and they will turn a reddish brown color when moistened with a small amount of water.

What are the dangers of fleas?

Fleas can cause medical problems in pets including flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), tapeworms, hair loss due to scratching, and secondary skin irritations. In large numbers, fleas can cause anemia from blood loss, especially in puppies and kittens. Some pets have been known to die if the anemia is severe.


Kindly consult us, on ways to prevent fleas from jumping onto our beloved pet dogs.

Disclaimer: Reading materials in this site are obtained from its respective website and it is for information purposes only. It is not Puppy Cottage Sdn. Bhd. view and it is not to be used against Puppy Cottage Sdn. Bhd.

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