Only a small percentage of fleas and ticks live on your pet. Adult fleas survive on a cat or dog, on average, 100 days. Adult fleas take their first blood within 30 minutes of arriving on the animal and then breed within the next 48 hours. Each female can lay up to 50 eggs a day for 50-100 days. The eggs fall off the pet onto the ground and when conditions are right the eggs hatch within a week. The larvae are non-parasitic and live in the environment. They go through three larval stages over a period of between a week and a month. The third larval stage spins a cocoon in which it changes into an adult within 10 days. Non-emerged adult fleas can last several months in the environment waiting for a potential host to walk by. Newly emerged fleas actively seek a host and can survive about a week without food.
Their eggs and larvae are in the environment. When addressing a flea problem you must treat all dogs and cats in the household. It is important to treat the environment as well as your pet to control these parasites. Wash bedding (hot water cycle), vacuum/clean carpet, rugs and floor. A pest control company may be needed to treat the house and yard.
Products can include collars, monthly tablets, rinses, top-spots and sprays. There is also a monthly injection that vets can give for ticks. There is now a new tasty chew given every 3 months for fleas and ticks. It is safe enough to use Frontline spray on pups from two days old (always read instructions before using products).
Ticks have a life cycle incorporating incomplete metamorphosis. Adult ticks feed and mate on mammals. Engorged females drop to the ground and lay eggs. The eggs hatch, producing six-legged larvae, or seed ticks. Seed ticks moult twice, passing through an eight-legged nymphal stage before reaching maturity. A blood meal must be taken before each moult can occur. Ticks are classified as one-, two- or three-host ticks, based on how many times they drop off, moult, and seek a new animal.
Brown dog ticks can infest dogs in large numbers and cause irritation. They suck blood and can cause anaemia. They can also carry blood parasites.
Fleas, in large numbers, can cause anaemia, irritation and Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). When the flea bites your animals the fleas’ saliva is injected into your pet. The saliva is the substance that your pet becomes allergic to. So one flea bite can start a FAD problem.
Signs of flea infestation are:
- Scratching and biting, especially base of tail and rump
- Actually seeing fleas, especially in the rump and groin areas
- Seeing ‘flea dirt’ (Flea faeces), which presents as black specks on the skin.