The Life Cycle of Fleas and how it can effect your dog


Finding fleas on your dog has the potential to bring a lot stress and anxiety to dog owners.  Being advised by your groomer that they found fleas on your dog, one flea, or worse, an infestation of fleas, can send any dog loving human into sheer panic and a sudden urge to call in the dudes with the hazmat suits.  Believe me, I know, I talk dog owners “off the ledge” on a regular basis about this topic. It freaks them out!


Let me first review the life cycle of the flea.  There are four stages.


  1. EGG
  3. PUPAE
  4. ADULT


So there are your four stages of the life cycle of the flea.



It takes one female flea to lay approximately 2500 eggs, every 10 days.  So TWO lady fleas in your house or in your back yard has the potential to be an infestation very quickly.  Trust me, if you have fleas in or around your home, there are probably more than two girls hanging around. So, do the math and you’ll get a grasp on how things rage on out of control in record time.


Now that I’ve frightened everyone half to death and they are starting to twitch and scratch themselves.  Let’s share a bit about how this cycle can come to you in the first place. There are few different ways you can experience the unwanted little critters.


1. Go for a walk where there are fleas in the grass.  Boom! All your dog has to do is touch a blade of grass where there is a flea and it’s “hello LUNCH!”  It can be your neighbor’s yard, your yard, the park, camping. Basically anywhere that there is grass, there could be fleas in that grass.


The numbers of wildlife in that area also play a role.  Bunnies, birds, squirrels, feral kitties, raccoons, they all typically carry fleas.  So if those wild critters are in your yard or the park or where you enjoy your walks?  There’s a good chance that there are fleas there to.  Wildlife make tasty hosts for fleas.  


2. Fleas can and often will catch a ride on a human.  Fleas don’t generally find humans a delicious food source, but they will make a bit of a meal out of a human,   Until something more to their satisfaction comes along, like your dog or your cat!  Yummy! They typically hitch a ride on a sock or in a shoe of a human.  That’s how they get into your home via human carrier.


So when your kids have friends over and if that friend has a flea concern in their home?  And if a flea happened to hitch a ride on a sock?  They can find your carpet and upholstery their new home. 



I had a client that was a superintendent at an apartment building.  Their dog often had fleas yet it was paper pad trained and never went outside. After much thought and deliberation, we concluded that when tenants would come into their unit to pay the rent.  They were bringing fleas into the environment.  We connected the  dots by monitoring when fleas would start to show up on their dog.  It was always after the  first of the month, when rent checks would come filtering in via hand delivery.


Now I’d like to share a bit about vet clinics, grooming salons and other commercial type of establishments.  I hear a this a lot…….


“and he got fleas from there!”  


The “THERE” that they are referring to is often a place that cares for other dogs or cats in some manner.  Here’s an important fact to note. Fleas can’t survive in places that are cleaned and disinfected regularly.  There is no carpet or upholstery for them to survive through the four stages of the life cycle. They get wiped out during the rigorous cleaning protocols every animal care establishment typically has in place.


In my salon specifically, we have a major cleaning process that goes immediately into effect upon the discovery of one flea.  We eliminate any chances of an escape or survival the instant a flea is discovered on any dog.


There is value in understanding the life cycle of the flea and the environment in which they need in order to live, reproduce and thrive.  A flea jumps on your dog from the grass, or two fleas or more. They breed on the body of the host. In other words, the dog. The female lays her eggs on the dog’s body and here’s where it gets super interesting.


The eggs drop off of the body of the dog and then land generally in carpeting, bedding, and upholstery.  They’ll stay there through the next 3 stages of the life cycle. Once they are an adult flea, they’ll feel a potential host coming and they’ll hitch a ride.


Here’s another important fact.  The adult flea will rarely, if ever,  willingly leave it’s host. Why run out on a good buffet, right?  If the host is healthy and there is no reason to search for another food source, they will not leave a good thing.  So they will stay on your dog until detected and something is done to irradiate them.


I mention this because there are a lot of dog owners that believe that fleas jump from host to host and THIS is how their dog got fleas.  It is possible, but highly unlikely. They are not interested in checking out another food source, they’re happy with your dog and have no interest in seeing anyone else.  


Nor can fleas at any stage of the life cycle survive without the perfect environment.  A sterile vet clinic isn’t one of those environments, nor is a grooming salon or a boarding kennel.  They spray with disinfectant, wash and clean too often. The surfaces are the wrong temperatures for the life cycle to continue onto the next phase.  You have more chances of picking up a flea from the grass during a potty break on your way in or out of one of these establishments than you do of actually getting them from inside the premises.  


How you choose to manage your dog and their exposure to fleas is very personal matter.  Some people use the prescription medication from the vets. Others are more comfortable with checking often and using a more holistic approach.  That topic is controversial enough on it’s own and I believe it is a choice that dog owners should research and make good informed choices. This is an area that I always do my best to support based on what that owner feels is best for themselves, their dog and their families.  Traditional medical ways or holistic, it’s up to the dog owner to choose.


I am asked weekly however,


“how did my dog get fleas?”


So I hope that this answers those questions and gives people some insight and reduces the fear and anxiety about fleas.  As always, it is pleasure to serve my community. I would love to hear from you if you have questions and I invite you to please share it with your family and friends.


Thank you, good day, good night, where ever you are, and always remember to thank your pets for all the love and support that they provide to us each and every day.  



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