It is really important to understand the flea life cycle if you want to effectively kill flea eggs, their larvae and pupae, and eradicate the adult fleas in your home. This must be done in order to prevent them from re-infesting your pets over the long term. Because this life cycle repeats, unless all stages of the flea’s life cycle are addressed, your problem with fleas will continue and get worse over time.
A female flea can lay between 200 to 400 eggs during her life. Multiply that by the hundreds that can hatch, reproduce and then cycle round again, and you will see that battling these tiny parasites can become a huge war!
In the diagram above, made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you will see that the adult female flea first lays or “sheds” her eggs to begin the life cycle. Within two-four days, these eggs will hatch into larvae. The flea larvae are able to stay alive by feasting on bits of blood that the adult flea leaves behind in its droppings (Really gross, huh?!)
The female flea is able to consume a huge amount of blood. Believe it or not, if you take the body weight of the female flea and multipy it by fifteen, you will come up with the approximate amount of blood that an adult female flea is capable of taking in over a day’s time. As just mentioned, some of this is used to keep the hatching eggs alive.
The larvae and pupae (protected by a sort of cocoon) continue to develop. This process takes up about the next three to four weeks of the life cycle. When the pupae is fully developed, it emerges from it’s cocoon as an adult flea, ready to find blood, which it needs to stay alive. At this stage, it jumps onto a warm-blooded animal and goes to town, feeding off its host for the next two weeks of it’s life cycle, and continues for up to two years.
The flea cannot survive in cold or dry climates, so infestations are particularly bad in hot and humid places. We live in Florida, so are constantly battling fleas in the summertime, especially since they can spend part of their life cycle in the yard and then come inside and hatch out in carpets, pet bedding etc., ready to hatch out and jump up on one of our dogs. For this reason, we have hardwood floors and tile, and treat our dogs with monthly flea prevention. We do not have flea issues because we stay on top of it, especially in the summer.
I’ll get into some specific ways that are the most effective for killing fleas and effectively preventing further outbreaks on your dogs, but understanding this life cycle is the first step in battling them.
We take a three-pronged approach to flea control and prevention:
- yard flea control
- home flea control
- dog flea control
With both yard and home flea control, you must treat, and then follow up treatment again with products that kill both the eggs and larvae as well as the adult or the life cycle will not be broken. We will cover methods for treating your homes and yards on other pages.
For dog flea control, you will first need to kill the fleas that are already on your dog with a combination of bathing and possibly an additional topical treatment (like a dip or spray). You can also have great results with an internal medication that will kill them as soon as they bite your dog (like Capstar flea medication). There are many different opinions on natural flea treatment options vs. chemical and medication-based flea control. We will cover these on other pages of the site as well to help you weigh the pros and cons between them and decide what best suits your needs and lifestyle.
If you are comfortable with treating your dogs on a monthy basis with a topical spot protection (like Advantage, Advantix, Frontline, or some less well marketed brands) you will find that you can control fleas rather well, combined with your yard and home flea control efforts.
Equally effective are monthly oral medications. Comfortis and Trifexis are two medications that fall into this category.
We will help you sort out which of these dog flea medication options will be right for your situation. Some of these are not safe for puppies, and others are. Some treat fleas, ticks and other parasites including mosquitos and lice, and others do not. Some are also combined with heartworm prevention and others are not. Some are expensive, and others are more affordable. It is a bit confusing to navigate the flea treatment “waters” but we will try and help make it easier to understand with the information we have on our website!