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Post by Eleanor on Thu Jan 16, 2014 4:43 pm

Fleas are probably the most well-known parasites. They’re dark, wingless insects, roughly two or three millimetres long, and are external parasites; they feed on blood by piercing the skin of their host with their sharp mouth parts. Although many people assume that the dog flea is the most common flea infecting dogs, the cat flea is actually the main culprit!

Life cycle of a flea:

Eggs – eggs can take anything from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to hatch out. They’re usually laid in groups of approximately twenty. Due to the smooth surface of flea eggs, they can very easily roll off of the host and onto your carpets and furniture, so it’s important to bear this in mind when attempting to rid your dog of fleas.

Larvae – unlike adult fleas, the larvae do not feed solely on blood; they’ll feed on organic matter such dead insects, vegetation, animal droppings, etc.. They can be very difficult to find, as they will retreat into small, dark spaces around your house.

Pupae – after going through three larval stages, the larvae will pupate and create cocoons. In a couple of weeks, they will emerge from the cocoons as adult fleas. They will usually stay where they are until a host passes by, at which point they will attach themselves and repeat the cycle.

Adult – once the flea is mature, its diet will have changed to one solely comprised of blood. Its lifespan varies according to habitat and host conditions (and whether or not they get caught by their host’s owner!), but they can sometimes live for roughly a year under the right conditions, unless they fail to find food after emerging from their cocoon. However, the average lifespan is a few months.

Symptoms of fleas

  • Fleas cause irritation to the host’s skin when they feed, which is why dogs will often scratch and chew themselves when they have fleas. This is one of the most obvious and well-known symptoms of a flea infestation on your dog.

  • If the dog scratches and bites at itself too much, hair loss can occur, as well as broken, inflamed skin, which can lead to infections.

  • Unexplained allergies. Some dogs may have an allergic reaction to flea saliva.

  • In very extreme cases of infestation, the dog may become anaemic, which is a decrease in the number of red blood cells. This can be dangerous with very young or very old dogs.

  • Fleas may be visible on the skin and hair shafts.

  • Flea dirt (tiny, dark spots – these are flea droppings) may also be visible against the skin.

  • You may find that you have also been bitten by fleas.

As with many parasites, fleas may be vectors for diseases. For this reason, it is even more important that you groom your dog regularly to ensure that any fleas are spotted quickly, before they have a chance to multiply too much.


There are various treatments for fleas, including spot-on, shampoos, powders and tablets. Some people also use treatments such as diatomaceous earth. Each treatment has its advantages and disadvantages, so make sure you research each one before choosing!

Never use a flea treatment specified for another species – this can be extremely dangerous to your dog’s health! This includes giving dog treatments to cats!

When treating for flies, it may be a good idea to treat for tapeworm as well, as flea larvae may be hosts to the parasite.

It is important to treat your home, as well as your dog, to ensure that you have gotten rid of all fleas and eggs. You will probably need to clean your dog’s bedding and vacuum floors, furniture and carpets.

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