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Greenback, TN 37742
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Why You Should Use Flea/Tick Preventatives Year Round

To understand the importance of using a flea or flea/tick product on your animal, it might first be helpful to understand the pests themselves.

Fleas (the thought of which makes me itch just writing this article!) are blood-sucking insects that prefer mammalian hosts.  In fact, 95% of  fleas use mammalian hosts to survive.  These hosts, of course, include your pet dogs and cats, and may include you as well!

Like mosquitoes and other skin-biting insects, flea saliva contains an ingredient that softens and breaks down skin in order for the flea to more easily penetrate the skin and suck the blood.  Flea saliva is irritating and allergenic, and is what causes the itching and irritation after being bitten.  The allergic condition from this reaction to the saliva is called Flea Allergy Dermatitis, or FAD.

The Life Cycle of A Flea

A flea’s life cycle consists of 4 stages:  egg, pupa, larva and adult.  We are most familiar with the adult stage, because they are easier to see, but where there are adults present, there are also fleas in the other 3 stages, you just can’t see them easily with the naked eye.

Egg:  Female adult fleas are prolific egg layers, sometimes laying 50 eggs a day, and up to 500-600 over the course of several months.  The eggs are not sticky and most do not stay on the host animal after being hatched.  They fall off the animal into carpeting, bedding, upholstery, floorboards or soil...wherever the animal goes or has been, and can hatch in two weeks or so.  At this point the larvae emerge.

Larval: When the larvae emerge, they are about 1/4” long and actively move.  They eat adult flea feces (dried blood) and other organic debris found in the same places as the eggs...carpet, bedding, soil etc.  Depending on environmental conditions (more on that later) the larval stage can last about 5-18 days.  Once that stage is complete, the larvae spin a cocoon and go into the pupal stage.

Pupal: The pupal stage is the last stage before emerging as an adult flea.  This stage can be as early as 3-5 days, or as long as a year.  Pupae need the right environmental factors to emerge.  This is usually the warm ambient temperatures and high humidity associated with summer weather, but these conditions can be mimicked under certain circumstances in your home even during the winter, so the pupae can hatch into adult fleas at any time, giving some folks thought about applying flea preventive even during the winter months.

Adult:  The adult flea is flat-bodied, and has hair-like bristles which enable it to move quickly through the fur (or hair) of their hosts.  If you have ever tried to chase a flea on your pet, now you know why they can move so fast!  Fleas are known for their jumping ability, and they have 3 pair of legs to help them do so.  Unlike the eggs, pupae and larvae, adult fleas prefer to live on the host animal, sucking their blood and making them miserable.

Once you understand the life cycle of the flea, you can understand why it’s important to protect your pet from these blood-sucking critters on a year round basis.  One month of missed treatments can allow fleas to reinfest your pet, starting the cycle all over again.  Makes me itch just thinking about it!


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