Shaping the future of animal health
Australia

Flea life-cycle

flea lifecycle The life-cycle of the flea is divided into two phases:

  1. Parasitic phase - adult fleas feeding and reproducing on the pet.
  2. Free-living phase - eggs laid by the adult flea drop off the animal and continue to develop in the environment. The new immature flea then jumps onto an animal and commences the parasitic phase again.

'Life cycle of the flea'

Cat fleas are generally thought to be the most common type of flea contracted by pets and are capable of infesting many different species; not just cats. In fact, the cat flea is the most common flea found on dogs. However, there are also other species of fleas that animals may contract.

Ctenocephalides felis (the cat flea) must feed by ingesting blood from a host (e.g. cat, dog or other animal) in order to reproduce and lay fertile eggs. Eggs fall off the animals coat into the environment and then hatch. The resultant flea larvae survive by feeding on the faeces of adult fleas and also other organic debris that is present within the environment. These larvae eventually develop into pupae. After a development period, immature fleas within the pupae are able to hatch and jump onto a passing animal. There are certain triggers that cause pupae to hatch including vibration, carbon dioxide and the correct environmental conditions (temperature and humidity). Did you know it can take as little as 7 seconds for flea pupae to hatch and jump onto a passing animal?

Flea reproduction

The immature flea jumps onto the animal and begins to ingest its first blood meal almost immediately. Mating usually occurs within 8 to 24 hours, allowing the laying of eggs within 24 to 28 hours of first infesting the dog or cat (Dryden, 1994). The female flea is capable of laying eggs for an average of 100 days and it has been reported that fleas may live up to 113 days on cats (Dryden, 1995).

The flea’s ability to multiply is phenomenal. The female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day and between 1000-2000 eggs in their lifetime. Many of these eggs will survive and develop through to the adult. Under appropriate environmental conditions, the life-cycle can be completed in as little as approximately 3 weeks.