Canine Flea Life Cycle

Flea Control in Dogs

My dog always seems to have fleas. What can I do?

Successful flea control involves both eliminating fleas from your dog and controlling fleas in your environment. Dogs and cats share the same fleas, and fleas can travel from one animal to another. Thus, it is important that all pets in your home are on a flea preventive program.

With the many choices we have today, we can provide you with the safest and most effective flea preventive for your pet’s needs. However, when it comes to environmental control, it is important to understand the flea life cycle.

What is the life cycle of the flea? 

There are four stages to the flea life cycle, namely the egg, the larva, the pupa and the adult.

Flea eggs are whitish and about 0.5 millimeter (mm) (1/32″) in length. Adult fleas lay eggs after taking a blood meal. The eggs are initially laid on the dog’s skin but fall off into the environment, where they constitute approximately 50% of the total flea population. Eggs may hatch in 14-28 days, depending on environmental conditions. High humidity and temperature are prime.

Flea larvae are about 2-5 mm (1/8″ to 1/4″) in length. They feed on organic debris found in their environment. They dislike bright light and move deep into carpet fibers, wood cracks, or under furniture or organic debris. Flea larvae prefer warm, dark and moist areas. Our climate-controlled homes offer an ideal environment for the flea larvae to thrive.

The flea pupae produce a protective silk-like cocoon that is sticky and well camouflaged. With warmth and humidity, pupae become adult fleas in 5-10 days. The adults do not emerge from the safety of this cocoon unless environmental conditions are right. Once fleas emerge from the cocoon they can only exist for a few days unless they are able to feed. Pre-emergent adult fleas can survive within the cocoon for up to 9 months. During this time they are resistant to insecticides applied to the environment. This is important to remember because adult fleas may emerge from their pupae into the environment a considerable time after you apply insecticides in your home.

The flea adult, unlike the larvae, is attracted to light and movement, looking for a host to feed upon. Two days after the first blood meal, female fleas begin egg production. In normal circumstances the adult female will live up to three weeks, laying approximately 40 eggs per day. The entire life cycle, from egg to adult flea can be completed in as little as 14-28 days depending on environmental conditions.

Apart from irritation, are fleas particularly harmful?

Fleas can cause anemia in heavy infestations, especially in young or debilitated dogs. A single female flea can consume up to 15 times her body weight in blood over the several weeks of her adult life. In addition, fleas can carry several diseases, including plague, and act as vectors (hosts) to spread one of the most common tapeworms of the dog and cat, Diplylidium caninum.

How do I prevent fleas on my dog?

We recommend using topical Frontline to kill adult fleas. Vacuuming your house and cleaning bedding weekly can help remove fleas from the environment. Pay special attention to cleaning where your pet is resting, and discard the vacuum cleaner bag after use.


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