External parasites, unfortunately, do very well in all conditions and we can come across them practically everywhere and at any time of the year. One of the most troublesome ectoparasites are fleas, including the dog flea. These insects not only cause unpleasant itching, but can also transmit many dangerous diseases.
Fleas – amazing insects
Fleas are small, laterally flattened, wingless insects whose adult forms feed on the blood of mammals . They are amazing jumpers. The average stroke length of a cat flea ( Ctenocephalides felis) is 19.9 cm (the minimum stroke is 2 cm, the maximum is 48 cm). In turn, the dog flea ( Ctenocephalides canis) can jump an even more impressive distance – its average length is 30.4 cm (the minimum is 2 cm, while the maximum – 50 cm). Fleas have great potential to persist in the environment. Under favorable conditions, within about 80 days, fleas can lay millions of eggs in a household, which become a reservoir for subsequent generations of these parasites. On average, one adult flea lays around 20 eggs a day for 11 days.
The life cycle of a flea
The life cycle of a flea has four stages. An adult female flea must ingest a meal of mammalian blood in order to lay eggs. Flea eggs do not stick to the host’s hair, but fall to the ground, which means they end up in its surroundings. Flea eggs look like tiny shiny white balls that are only visible under high magnification. Flea larvae hatch from eggs in 6 days. They resemble tiny caterpillars, also practically invisible to the naked eye. Fleas in this form avoid dry and bright places, they stay in various crevices in the floor, where they pass into the pupal stage after some time. Before hatching, the flea is resistant to low humidity and temperature. An adult flea can stay in the cocoon for up to 140 days!
Why are dog fleas dangerous?
Fleas in a dog are not only a bothersome problem that causes persistent itching. They can also be the cause of the so-called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) . Flea saliva and excreta can – as allergens containing a foreign protein – cause a severe allergic reaction in a cat or dog. As a result of an animal’s scratching or an allergic reaction caused by a flea, secondary bacterial infections often develop , manifested by local dermatitis. Moreover, fleas are common parasites and can act as vectors for many pathogens and invasions and zoonotic infections, including the canine tapeworm ( Dipylidium caninum ), bacteria of the genus Bartonella spp .or even, which can cause various types of filariasis , Acanthocheilonema reconditum . Fleas can also transmit plague , an extremely dangerous disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Plague now exists in several endemic regions in Asia and Africa – in the 1990s, outbreaks were recorded in Vietnam, Zambia and India. Outbreaks were registered in the 21st century in Algeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Madagascar.
Where are fleas found?
Dogs become infected with them by contacting other animals or by walking in places where they live , such as lawns. This is how fleas are most often transmitted in a puppy. There is still a misconception that indoor cats or dogs that spend most of the day at home are not at risk of being infested with ectoparasites. Nothing could be more wrong. Outdoor cats can also be attacked by fleas, and our couch dogs can come back from a walk with a new companion on their backs.
Does my dog have fleas? How can I tell?
Scratching, biting the hair, or over-grooming can mean your pet has fleas. In this case, it is best to carefully inspect all your pets to see if they have any signs of flea, even if only one of them is scratching. Likewise, if we detect the presence of fleas in only one pet, then we must treat all our animals.
What to do when you find fleas in your dog?
Ask your veterinarian about effective treatments that will make fleas disappear from your dog and other pets in your home.
If your pet does have fleas, the ones you see on your pet are only a small part of the total you need to get rid of. The rest takes the form of eggs, larvae and pupae, which are hidden throughout your home – in carpets, mattresses, under furniture or between gaps in the floor. Also in this case, it is worth asking your veterinarian for advice, who will tell you what measures to use to get rid of fleas in the environment.
Flea activity during winter
Flea infestation can last all year round . Fleas only need a host, a temperature that is within the appropriate range and the humidity of the environment to develop. That is why our cozy, warm apartments, together with our four-legged friends, are the perfect place for this parasite.
Do fleas in dogs pass on to humans?
A common question asked by concerned pet owners is: do dog fleas pass on to humans? Unfortunately, the answer is yes . Contrary to what the nomenclature suggests, both dog and cat fleas can pass to humans. However, despite the fact that pet fleas can actually bite us, we can be sure that they will not stay with us for a long time . The human body, mostly devoid of long, thick hair, is not the ideal environment for them. However, we must remember that for a short time they will actually live on our skin or clothes, and thus we will act as a waiting room for them, waiting for better conditions for a longer stay.