Fleas are major pests of cats and dogs which means these blood-sucking creatures can be easily brought into homes. With their fast reproduction, flea infestations can quickly spiral out of control and pets and their owners must deal with the itchy bites. There are over 2,000 flea species throughout the world. Fleas can carry diseases and can cause medical issues. These insects can transmit tapeworm and, although very rare in North America, the bubonic plague. People and their pets can have allergic reactions to flea saliva including rashes. Fleas can be carried into your home by a pet or wild animals living nearby like birds and raccoons. Adult fleas will live on their host while eggs, larvae and pupae can be found in places where pets commonly sleep or hang out.
Fleas usually bite people on their ankles and legs. These itchy bites are generally small, red and slightly raised. A characteristic flea bite has a tiny red dot in the middle with a red halo surrounding it.
Fleas prefer warm, moist environments and are most active from July through October. Adult fleas live on hosts which can range depending on the flea species from cats and dogs to rats and chickens.
Adult fleas survive on the blood of their host although they can live for several months without food. Flea larvae eat mostly organic debris, but also need blood. They get this blood from blood excrement deposited by adults.
The flea life cycle goes through the egg, larva, pupa and adult stages. Female fleas typically lay 4 to 8 eggs on the host after every blood meal, laying between 400 and 500 eggs in a lifetime. The eggs do not stick to the host’s hair, and easily fall off and land in places where the host frequents. Eggs can hatch anytime between two days and two weeks. The time it takes a flea to go from egg to adulthood depends on the species as well as the temperature, humidity and food resources. It can take a flea anywhere from two weeks to eight months to become an adult. Fleas will often hibernate during the winter in their larval or pupal stages. Fleas weave themselves into a silken cocoon during the pupal stage. Adults will not emerge until they sense that a host is near by detecting body heat, noise, vibrations and breathing. Fleas are most abundant during more warm and humid winters and springs.
Types of Fleas
Adult fleas are usually about ⅛-inch long and are dark brown to black. Fleas look reddish after a recent blood meal. They have wingless, hard bodies and large hind legs meant for jumping. Fleas can jump about six inches vertically and thirteen inches horizontally. Their bodies have a narrow, flattened shape which makes it easier for the fleas to move between the hairs of their host. Fleas also have a row of spines that hook backward on their faces. These spines help the fleas attach themselves to the hairs of their hosts and a challenge to remove them from a pet’s fur. Fleas use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to drink blood.
Fleas In The Home & The Yard
The more time your pets spend outside, the greater the chance they'll bring these pests inside. These insects hate sunlight, so they prefer to group themselves in areas that are out of the sun and are generally more humid. Lawn furniture, a dog house or pet bed would be a prime spot to look for them.
Sweep off your deck or patio furniture frequently. Eliminate any debris lying around your yard and cut your grass regularly so fleas don’t have as many places to hide.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you tell if your cat or dog has fleas?
The first sign that your pet may have fleas is if you notice that the animal looks uncomfortable and is often scratching and biting themselves. Fleas tend to bite the tail, shoulder and neck areas of your cat or dog so inspect these areas first. Part the hair or fur and see if there are any fleas jumping about. Another way you can check for fleas is by wearing gloves and long sleeves and brushing your pet in an empty bathtub. If little black specs fall into the tub dampen them with water. If the specs turn red it means that these are the blood excrement of adult fleas and your pet has fleas.
Benefits of Professional Flea Pest Control
If you catch it early enough, you might be able to stop a flea problem before it begins by bringing your pet to the veterinarian, but often, by the time you realize you have fleas, your home has a full blown infestation. A pest management professional will work with you to accurately treat the flea problem and get it resolved as quickly as possible.