Fleas are parasitic insects that feed on the blood of their host. They have specialized legs that have earned them a reputation as excellent jumpers. The most common infesting flea is the cat flea. While generally associated with dogs and cats, fleas will also search out the blood of human hosts when an animal is not available. Their piercing mouthparts allow them to pierce their hosts skin and feed on their blood.
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Problems Associated with Fleas
- Fleas that are parasitic to rodents have been found to carry and transmit diseases such as plague and typhus. Sometimes when a building is treated for rodents, their fleas search out humans once their original host has been eliminated.
- Fleas cause uncomfortable itchy welts.
What can I do to help control fleas?
- Flea control should be focused toward the dogs or cats in the household. Common breeding sites include pet bedding, carpet, crawl spaces, and in upholstered furniture.
- Vacuum the premises thoroughly, including carpets, cracks and crevices, baseboards, under furniture, in the seams of upholstered furniture, and especially areas utilized by cats and dogs. This will help remove eggs, larvae, and some adult fleas.
- To kill all life stages, items such as pet bedding, rugs, blankets should be laundered in hot, soapy water. Be sure to read the washing instructions of these items to ensure they can withstand temperatures.
- Flea control brings with it a degree of difficulty because fleas must be treated around the home and also on the pets themselves.
- Use specially designed flea combs to remove fleas from pets by hand.
- There are numerous product formulations designed to treat pets for fleas, including sprays, dusts, pills, topical applications, shampoos, collars, and food additives. Consult your veterinarian first before applying any flea treatment to your pet.
- Refrain from using any product on your pet that does not specifically state that it is formulated for safe use on pets of particular age and level of health.
- Work with a pest control professional to treat areas where flea infestation has occurred. Flea control can be difficult, and will require a series of service visits by an experienced professional.
Flea eggs are extremely small, and very difficult to detect with the naked eye. The eggs are not attached to the host, but simply fall where they may. Concealed by carpet, hair, and other substrates, these eggs hatch in a matter of days as tiny legless, worm-like larvae.
Due to their size and ability to remain concealed in carpet pile and hair, flea larvae usually go undetected until they reach adulthood. They feed on organic material including dried blood and flea excrement. The larvae feed for about two weeks and then pupate for about two more weeks.
After they pupate they finally emerge as adults ready to use their specialized jumping legs to search out the blood of a new host. Adult fleas are very small. Dark in color, these red-brown insects are wingless. Unlike pests like cockroaches whose bodies are flat to the ground, fleas have a slender body which allows them to move through hair, carpet, and other fibers.