Common Parasites of Cats and Dogs
There is a large variety of parasites that can affect cats and dogs. We will briefly describe some of the most common of these, their life cycles, and their potential to spread to humans!
Week 1 - Fleas
Fleas are very common in Melbourne. We recommend all cats that go outdoors, and all dogs are kept on a flea prevention treatment.
The life cycle is depicted below. The Adults spend most of their time on the dog or cat. The jump off to lay their eggs in the environment, these eggs hatch to form larvae. These larvae live in the environment (dog or cat’s bed, carpet, floor boards, back yard, dog park etc). They survive by eating skin cells shed into the environment. These then pupate (similar to a caterpillar in a cocoon). This part of the life cycle last the longest, and is resistant to many chemicals that will kill the other life stages. The flea lifecycle can last 3-6 months from egg to adult flea.
The Flea population is made up of the following life stages:
Health Effects on Cats and Dogs
Adult fleas feed off blood, and heavy flea burdens can cause anaemia (lack of red blood cells).
Fleas can cause allergic dermatitis. Dogs and cats with flea allergies can have severe rash and itch from a small number of adult fleas.
Fleas can spread tapeworm and some blood borne infections.
Health Effects on People
Fleas will bite humans, and can cause an irritating rash.
There are a variety of effective flea prevention products on the market. Come in to the clinic to discuss the best product for your pet.
Treating the animal will help to break the lifecycle but must be continued. No preventative product on the market is able to kill the pupae stages. Regular vacuuming and washing of pet bedding will help to removed eggs, larvae and pupae from the environment. To prevent reinfestation will require long term, regular application of flea preventatives.
Multiple Choice Question
What percentage of the flea population exist and juvenile stages in the environment (that is eggs, larvae and pupae, NOT adult fleas)?