Who can leap tall buildings in a single bound? Besides a superhero, you might be surprised to learn that the household flea also has amazing superpowers.
Up, Up, and Away
Interestingly, a flea can jump approximately eight inches by catapulting itself forward. It's thought that fleas use an elastic pad made of a protein called resilin that works like a spring to propel their bodies into the air.1 With this unique ability, it's easy to see how quickly a flea can attach itself to you or your pet.
Fleas Know How to Stick a Landing
Once attached, a flea will often remain on its host until it dies. The flea's small and nimble body empowers it to move quickly on your pet's fur. Then, projecting spines anchor the flea into your pet's skin. Once attached, fleas quickly begin to feed. Within one to two days, a flea can gain enough nourishment to begin reproduction. A flea's life-cycle consists of four stages:
- Egg. Eggs are small and smooth and tend to fall off your pet, ending up outdoors or inside your home.
- Larvae. Larvae live on your pet's skin—specifically around any dried blood. Larvae can take anywhere from four to 18 days before entering the pupae stage.
- Pupae. Pupae are fleas in a cocoon state. Pupae live from eight to nine days but can remain in a cocoon for more than six months.
- Adult. Adult fleas can live more than 100 days in perfect conditions. In that time, they lay eggs and may transmit illness and disease.
Fleas Multiply at an Alarming Rate
A flea's reproductive abilities are pretty incredible. On average, an adult flea lays 40 to 50 eggs per day. This process can go on for over 100 days. Of course, the flea eggs are too slick and smooth to remain on your pet for long. Before you know it, the eggs are falling onto your home's flooring and upholstery.
Fleas Aim to Destroy
Fleas are more than just an annoyance. They can transmit illness and disease to you and your pet. The most common flea, the cat flea (which affects both cats and dogs), is difficult to control and may transmit several illnesses such as:
- Anemia. Severe anemia typically affects young and elderly pets.
- Murine Typhus. Symptoms include fever, aches, headache, nausea, and rash.2
- Tapeworm. Symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.
- Plague. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. This disease is rare and localized to California, southern Oregon, western Nevada, northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, and southern Colorado.3
Fleas might be small, but they can do more than irritate you and your pet if left unchecked.
A Flea's Archenemy Can Save the Day
Fleas must be eradicated. Fortunately, there is a way to prevent and control any future flea invasions. Remember, it's much easier to prevent a flea infestation than get rid of one. By taking a few simple precautions,4you can ensure your pet remains happy and free of fleas.
- Protect your pet with a topical flea treatment. Adams Plus Flea & Tick Spot-on for Dogs or Cats prevents fleas from re-infesting your pet for up to 30 days.
- Use a flea collar. The Adams Plus Flea & Tick Collar for Cats or Dogs protects your pet for up to seven months and kills fleas, flea eggs, and larvae.
- For an extra layer of protection, use Adams Plus Flea & Tick Foaming Shampoo & Wash for Dogs & Puppies. This shampoo helps prevent flea eggs from hatching for up to 28 days. There's also a version for cats and kittens.
- Use a flea comb to inspect your pet's fur from time-to-time.
While some flea products are not pet-specific, others are. Using a dog-specific treatment on a cat or kitten, for example, can be dangerous. Always read and follow the product's directions.
Because of the flea's exceptional leaping skills, you need to protect your home and your yard from the dreaded pest as well. For your home, you have options like an indoor fogger, carpet spray, or home spray. For your yard, try the Adams Yard & Garden Spray. This spray will help protect your lawn and your garden for up to four weeks.
Never fear, you can conquer the dreaded enemy, the flea! The flea may be able to jump approximately 150 times its body length, but you have several fail-proof weapons in your arsenal to defeat this evil foe. By taking the proper precautions, you can be a true hero in the eyes of your pet.
1. Traub, Robert, Miriam Rothschild. “Flea." Britannica, 1 July 2020, https://www.britannica.com/animal/flea/Natural-history.
2. “Infections Caused by Fleas and Ticks." Herschel Animal Clinic, https://www.herschelanimalclinic.com/blog/infections-caused-by-fleas-and-ticks.html.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Plague in the United States." https://www.cdc.gov/plague/maps/index.html.
4. Donovan, John. “Treating and Preventing Fleas on Your Pet." WebMD, 2018, https://pets.webmd.com/fleas-prevent-treat#1.