Fleas are bugs without wings and which present a laterally flattened body. They measure between 1.5 and 4mm in length and possess 3 pairs of legs, one pair of which allows them to achieve impressive high jumps (+ / - 30cm).
The species most represented among our pets is Ctenocephalides Felis Felis (the Cat Flea). Alone, it represents 98% of the flea population in our region
The cycle of the flea:
Contrary to popular belief, the flea is a permanent parasite i.e. it remains on the host animal for all of its life where it reproduces and feeds. It begins to lay eggs 20 to 36h after its first meal of its host’s blood and is very prolific ; at peak production it can lay 40 to 50 eggs per day (on average 20-30) during a period of 50 to 100 days. The eggs are oval, measure 0,3 to 0,5mm, are transparent or possibly ivory white. They fall from the fur on average 1 to 2 hours after being laid. In the best conditions (relative humidity > 50% and temperature close to 25°) they hatch after 2 to 7 days and give birth to a larva of + / - 1mm that looks like a hairy maggot. These larvae evolve in different stages: larva 1, larva 2 then larva 3 measuring 6mm and being brownish red coloured. They eat organic debris, flea faeces and non-viable eggs. The larvae need humidity, move limited distances (+ / - 50cm) and avoid light. They take refuge in carpet pile, cracks in the floor, under cushions …… where they turn into cocoons which are particularity resistant to UV rays and variations in temperature. After some time, when humidity and temperature conditions are favorable, an adult flea emerges
The complete cycle normally takes 21 to 35 days (minimum 14 days) but, it can sometimes take several months if conditions are unfavorable. The adult flea is attracted to light and guides itself according to body heat, air movements, exhaled CO2 and to variations in light and shade in order to jump onto its future host
These are very variable according to species (dog, cat.) but also depending on the individual's sensitivity. It is not uncommon to see a cat covered with fleas - but not presenting any cutaneous lesions primarily because they are not allergic.
Among cats allergic to the fleas (Flea Allergy Dermatitis: FAD), the clinical picture is varied: miliary dermatitis (minuscule pimples topped with a small crust), feline éosinophilic syndrome, extensive alopecia (hairs lost on parts of the body where the cat can lick itself).
Among dogs which are allergic to the saliva or bite of fleas (FAD: Flea Allergy Dermatitis) the pruritus (biting, scratching, licking) can be intense - mainly affecting the dorsal lumbar regions
Effective treatment for our pets takes into account the cycle of the flea and it is necessary not only to treat the animal (using adulticide products) but also his/her environment.
It is necessary to:
- use a good adulticide product (to kill the adult fleas)
- respect the doses and prescribed intervals between applications
- use the product best adapted to the target species (cat, dog)
- choose the product according to the animal (allergic or not) and to his/her surroundings
- choose the product according to its efficiency (speed to kill the flea, repulsive effect, duration of action, possible effect on the larval stages)
- choose the product according to its innocuity (absence of risks)
- treat all animals coming into contact with the parasites
For the environment, various sprays exist which combine activity against the adult fleas and also against the larvae. Molecules contained in the sprays act upon the synthesis of the chitine (shell) of the bug, on the growth hormone of the fleas, and on their eggs. They can completely prevent the development of the fleas in your house.
It is often necessary to combine different treatments to efficiently eliminate fleas from your pet. Your veterinarian knows the best available products – trust him !