Everything You Need to Know About Fleas
Fleas are parasitic insects of the order Siphonaptera with more than 2,000 species recognized all over the world. Most household flea infestations are usually caused by dog flea (Ctenocephalides felis), cat flea (Ctenocephalides canis), human or rat flea. Cases of bad rodent infestations might also cause a flea infestation.
What Does a Flea Look Like?
Adult fleas are tiny (about 1 - 2.5 mm in length, depending on the species), their bodies are thin and flat for better movement through an animal's fur. They have mouth parts which are used to extract the host's blood and depending on whether they have fed or not, they appear from yellowish to dark brown in colour.
Fleas are wingless, however they can jump large distances - hundred times their height, because of their six long legs. Which is also the reason why it is so difficult to catch and kill fleas by hand and why typically they require some kind of chemical or professional pest treatment.
What Do Fleas Eat?
Fleas are parasites which survive solely on blood extracted from their host, typically a warm-blooded animal. They attach themselves to and live on their victim. With no host to provide food, a flea's life might be as short as a couple of days. How Do You Get Fleas? Flea infestations usually stem from pets, so in households, with animals, a flea infestation is a very probable occurrence because animals can get fleas from anywhere outdoors. However, it isn't impossible to have fleas if you do not own a pet. Other reasons might be:
- the previous owner or tenant of the property had flea infested animals;
- the fleas are brought by another pest you might be harbouring, such as rats or mice;
What are the Signs of Flea Infestation?
Checking your pet should be the first thing on your list to determining if you have a flea problem. Excessive scratching, reddened skin, loss of hair and the presence of live fleas on the head and neck areas, which are most targeted, are all signs of flea infestation. Sometimes you might not find an actual flea on your pet's coat, but you might find other signs of their presence like flea dirt or eggs. Flea larvae and pupae are found in and around areas where pets are spending time active or sleeping. Other signs of flea infestation include flea bites - most commonly on legs and arms resulting in red itchy spots - these occur in cases of large flea infestations.
Are Fleas a Health Hazard?
Historically, fleas have posed a great threat to public health - spreading plagues and viruses. Today, fleas are mostly just annoying biting pests of both humans and animals. Severe cases a flea infested animals often result in dermatitis. Catching a virus or disease because of cat, dog or human fleas is highly unlikely. However, there are species of fleas that are a risk to human health worldwide, such as the Oriental flea (Xenopyslla cheopis) which is a parasite of rats, but gladly feast on humans. So if your infestation is not due to a flea infested pet and you do suspect you are also harbouring a rat infestation - immediately contact a local pest controller.
Pets and Flea Infestation?
If your animal companion becomes infected by fleas you should take immediate action. Fleas life cycle consist of rapid reproduction rates, which means your home can become heavily infested in no time. Fleas lay eggs on your pet (up to 50 eggs per day), then fall off to contaminate every part of your home. In addition, flea dermatitis occurs very often in companion animals such as cats and dogs as a result of ignoring and overlooking a flea problem.
Do Flea Collars Work?
Unfortunately most commercially sold flea collars are not effective with current flea infestations. Aggressive and professional flea treatments are necessary to combat an infestation due to their fast reproduction rate, small size and jumping abilities.
How Can I Prevent Flea Infestation?
You can prevent flea infestation by regularly treating your companion animal for fleas. Your veterinarian can suggest a wide variety of treatments, with options of long-term effects for a full month.
How Can I Get Rid of Fleas?
Flea control can be difficult and complicated, especially if you have decided to do it yourself. Only treating the source of the infestation, such as an infected pest is not sufficient and an infestation will re-occur. The same applies to "alternative" or natural flea treatments, which are not aggressive enough to actually repel these parasites plus they have no effect on flea larvae and pupa. Adult fleas comprise only 5% of the total flea population, which makes their eradication very tough. An adequate description of all the factors of carrying out flea control is beyond the scope of this section. However, there are numerous control products ranging from different ingredients to different methods of application, so we recommend consulting with a veterinarian and a professional pest control company regarding which products and approach is suitable for your circumstances of flea infestation in the home, yard or barn. To completely get rid of fleas, combine a pet flea treatment with a professional pest flea treatment for your property.