Whilst fleas are associated with dogs and cats, there are more than just these varieties around. Human and bird fleas even exist amongst others, but cat fleas are by far the most common.
As you might expect fleas are small – even adult fleas are only around a few millimetres in length. Fleas do not have wings and tend to be a brown / red colour. They are best viewed under a microscope or similar device.
The characteristic of fleas are that they feed on warm blooded animals hence covering the range mentioned above. The female fleas feed on the animal then produce eggs. Adult fleas can survive for two years and during this time some can produce as many as 1,000 eggs! There are four stages of flea development: egg, larvae, pupa and adult. Fleas will only emerge when some kind of movement of a suitable host is established and the cycle generally takes a month to complete at this point.
Fleas like to live in populated areas, so you are most likely to encounter them on or near where your pet spends most of its time. Carpets, bedding and furniture are common and desirable places for flea infestations. Not surprisingly adult fleas feed on the blood of pets and humans, while small larvae feed on the skin.
How do you recognise a flea infestation?
The classic and tell-tale sign is persistent itching. In light coloured animals these fleas can be easy to find but in darker colours spotting their presence may be more difficult. In terms of bites on humans they tend to be located in a similar area (around the legs or ankles) and some can produce moderate localised reactions. If your house or property has a live and ongoing flea infestation, it is not unusual to see these fleas jumping to move (because remember they can’t fly.)
How to deal with flea infestations
Initially let’s look at prevention rather than cure – it is better simply to avoid having the fleas in the first place. For dogs and cats, regular visits to the vet and appropriate (preventative) treatment can stop the formation of fleas so the problem never becomes an issue. Solutions can be applied which act as protection to (at the very least) control fleas should any decide to use your pet as their host.
If the fleas are already established and the outbreak is active, then treating it can be a little more complicated though there are still measures you can take.
In terms of ‘self-help’, the following are suggested if the presence of fleas is suspected:
1) Regularly vacuum as many areas as possible to eradicate the fleas.
2) Apply products to pets which kill active infestation (in a similar way to head lice in humans.)
3) Wash both your pet and their items (baskets, blankets etc) regularly. Apart from on the pet itself, use as hot water as possible to kill the fleas.
Remember that serious flea infestations require specialist treatment and a pest controller is the best person to deal with this.
Prior to this work being carried out clear as much space and clutter as possible so all areas can be thoroughly dealt with. Follow the three steps above also which act as a good precursor for to your treatment programme. Flea infestations are normally treated with an insecticide which comes as a spray or in power form. Once applied the treatment should be left for as long as possible (at least two weeks) to ensure it has done its desired job.
Want to find out additional information? See more on fleas by visiting our dedicated page.