So, your pet has fleas. You just saw
one, so what’s the big deal? To
answer this, you first need to
understand the life cycle of the flea.
Adult fleas are found on pets, and
after taking a blood meal (yes, they
drink your pet’s blood!), the females
lay eggs on your pet, then drop off
and into the environment (e.g., your
In her lifespan, a female flea can lay
thousands of eggs. These eggs then
become larvae, which hatch after
about two weeks. The larvae then
become pupae, and from there,
hatch to the adult life stage and
start the cycle all over again.
So, what’s the big deal with just one
flea? Check out the chart below to
see a breakdown of how the other
life stages compare to the adult in
the environment (your house)!
Believe it or not, treating your pet’s
environment (yes, your house!) is a
critical part of treating your pet for
fleas. This can be achieved through
frequent vacuuming and throwing
away the bag or emptying the canister
as soon as you’re done.
Additionally, your pet’s bedding and
any upholstered surfaces should also
be vacuumed and laundered, if
Outside, keep the grass mowed and
remove the clippings. You may also
treat your lawn with insecticides, but
before doing so, make sure it’s pet-
And, of course, then there’s your pet.
There are a wide variety of both
topical (on the skin) and oral flea
preventatives available, so be sure to
mention your preference for topical
vs. oral medication to your
veterinarian, and they will work with
you to come up with the appropriate
plan for you and your pet.
Your Pet &
Answers to your questions
about these tiny creatures and
the big problems they can cause.
“He that lieth down with Dogs,
shall rise up with Fleas.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Despite their tiny size, fleas can
cause huge problems, both for pets
and their owners.
It’s no secret that fleas make
animals itchy. This itchiness
(pruritus) arises when the animal
is bitten by a flea as it takes a blood
meal. Furthermore, this itchiness
then causes your pet to scratch or
chew at themselves to subdue the
itchy feeling, only to cause skin
lesions as a result. These “hot
spots” easily – and very quickly –
become infected with bacteria, and
are very painful for your pet.
What’s more, even if the hot spots
are treated and cleared, as long as
your pet has fleas, it’s more likely
that the hot spots will recur.
So, your pet has fleas… what now?
Don’t worry! This is a very common occurrence, and in fact, is one of the most common
problems seen in general practice. Later in this brochure, ways to get rid of and prevent fleas
will be discussed, but first, it’s important that you be aware of all of the problems that fleas can
cause (yes, they dodo more than make your pet itchy!)
Fleas can also perpetuate tapeworm
infections in companion animals. This is
because flea larvae consume tapeworm
eggs, and once they mature to the adult life
stage, can pass them on to our companion
animals. To put it simply, if your pet
ingests a flea (e.g., while grooming), they
have just ingested tapeworm eggs. As
such, all pets with a flea infestation are at a
significant risk for developing a tapeworm
infection, and all should be tested for
tapeworms. As they pass through your
pet’s digestive tract, their segments can be
seen on the fur on your pet’s rear (look
like a grain of rice). The worms can cause
your pet a bit of discomfort, sometimes
manifested as “scooting” behavior.
Flea allergy dermatitis is another
condition commonly seen with flea
infestations, manifested as loss of hair
(alopecia) over the areas commonly
inhabited by fleas (inner thigh, abdomen,
over the tail head, along the spine, on the
neck/head). The itchiness in these animals
may be so intense as to cause self-
mutilation. This can lead to severe skin
infections which often require long
courses of antibiotics to clear the infection,
as well as other medications to relieve the
itchiness and reduce inflammation.
Because they feed on your pet’s blood,
heavy flea infestations can cause a
significant anemia in pets, which can be
life-threatening, especially if the fleas are
killed off rapidly (e.g., during a bath). The
easiest way to prevent this (and all of the
aforementioned problems) is to treat your
pet, their environment, and everything in
their environment. Options are discussed
on the back of this brochure.