Dog fleas are tiny, wingless insects, whose adult form are external parasites of warm blooded animals especially birds and mammals. Difficult to see, the insects have a flattened body with inconspicuous eyes and antennae lying on both sides of the head. With long hind legs, they can jump and hop over their hosts. Their life cycle consists of egg form, three larval stages, cocooned pupae and fully developed adult form. The adult can produce at least 4000 eggs during its life time.
Dog Flea – Ctenocephalides canis
Description: Brown colored when adult, dog fleas are 3-4 mm long. Legless larva is white in color, up to 5 mm long with spiky hair on each body segment.
Biology: Adult live by taking blood meals of dogs and cats. Rarely bite humans. The entire life cycle of fleas is spent across and around the host’s body but only adult fleas are blood sucking parasites, which leave their host’s body frequently. Male fleas can live without food for several months but the female needs blood meals before they can produce eggs.
Flea eggs are ovoid, whitish in color and deposited loose on the host animal’s body, beddings, haunts and sleeping places. Flea larvae sustain on the blood droppings of the adult flea. It lives in and around the host’s lair and surroundings. When fully grown, the larvae pupate in silken cocoons. Adult fleas emerge from the cocoon through the mechanical stimulus caused by the host’s body movement.
In the absence of mechanical stimulus, fleas can remain dormant in their cocoons for many months. It emerges out on finding a favorable environment and a warm blooded host’s body. The whole life cycle staring from egg to adult flea takes 2-3 weeks in warm temperatures, but takes longer in cooler climates. Dog flea is a carrier of dog tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum, which can also affect man.
Distribution: Cosmopolitan, associated with dogs and cats (the Dog Flea and the related Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides felis, are probably the most numerous of all domestic fleas).