Know The Flea Foe
By Dr. Stuart Mitchell
A well-established urban pest, The Cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is ubiquitous in the U.S. As fleas are considered to be significant vectors of disease, evidence does not support this in Cat fleas. However, Cat fleas are a significant public and veterinary heath threat. In order to successfully eliminate these obligate blood feeders, the pest management professional must know the flea foe.
Feeding upon companion animals and humans, both female and male fleas are blood feeders. The female requires additional blood feeding for egg production. After placing eggs on the host animal, most tend to fall off into animal sleeping and resting areas since not adhered in any way. Over a month, fecund female fleas can oviposit approximately 25 eggs/day.
Through adaptation, adult fleas live within the pelage of the host. Larvae refuge in floor surface materials and host bedding, primarily feeding upon adult flea feces.
- Complete metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa, adult
- Eggs: 1 mm, white, and up to 1000/female/lifetime
- Larvae: 5 mm, whitish, legless, 2 to 3 molts over 3 weeks, and do best in higher humidity
- Pupae: inside a cocoon covered with micro-debris, emergence stimulated by vibration in 2 to 4 weeks (can be delayed for months)
- Adults: 2 mm, mahogany colored, laterally compressed, wingless, and strong legs for host jumping
- Flea saliva may cause allergy dermatitis (FAD) in companion cats and dogs.
- Transmitting cat and dog tapeworms, Cat fleas are a health risk to companion animals
Successful treatment of pestiferous fleas must involve veterinary diagnosis and treatment of potential or known host companion animals. Focal vacuuming of companion animal resting and sleeping areas is critical to reduce immature fleas (eggs, larvae, and pupae) which make up 99% of the overall population. Diagnostic and surgical applications of professional products (including growth regulators-IGRs) are critical to the integrated approach of flea elimination.