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Zoe Blake takes a look at a common problem in house pets

It’s that time of year many pet owners fear, as the weather turns colder, the heating comes on, and the fleas appear. Did you know that the fleas on your pet represent only about 5% of the flea population? The other 95% sadly live in the environment that your pet spends its time in. To keep fleas at bay, it’s important to understand the flea life cycle

The life cycle comprises approximately eggs (50%), larvae (35%), pupae (10%), flea (5%). When fleas land on your pet they feed, breed and start to lay eggs. The eggs will drop into the environment, where they will hatch into larvae. Larvae don’t like light so they will burrow away into carpets, bedding and floor cracks. They live off flea dirt and skin debris and then spin into a pupae. Here the flea develops before hatching out to find a host (you or your pet!).

The pupae have a very tough coating which makes them robust to vacuuming and chemicals. When faced with the correct stimuli they will hop onto their host and so the cycle starts again. Vibration, CO2 and humidity are what fleas prefer, so turning the heating on and spending more time in the home is creating the perfect ambiance. Pupae have been known to remain in the environment for up to 2 years.

So what should you do if your pet has fleas?
If you use effective flea treatment on your pet, then it can take about 6 weeks to take effect. This is allowing for the various stages of the life cycle to complete and re-infest your pet. You need to back this up with regular vacuuming and washing of your pet’s bedding.

If you want to reduce this to about 3 weeks then an environment product will also be needed. Before using the household products, turn your heating up, place bowls of steamy water into each room and hoover. This will ensure that you can eradicate as much of the flea life cycle as possible.

I recommend that you repeat this process in 10-14 days. The pupae is the most resistant of the cycle and so leaving some time gives the immature fleas time to develop in the pupae and allow them to be ready to hatch out at your next treatment.

Eliminating fleas is about providing effective treatment correctly and safely. If you’re having problems despite taking these measures then something could be wrong. Are your products effective? Are you following the correct instructions?

Having a flea infestation can bring misery to many pet owning families and also bring skin conditions with it. So don’t delay, get rid of those fleas today.

Zoe Blake is a registered veterinary nurse and runs The Friendly Pet Nurse. Call 07917 094715 or visit the website at

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