Fleas are common external parasites of both dogs and cats, these biting insects feed on household animals, but may also bite humans. The size of a flea varies between 1/12’’ to 1/6” in length and they tend to be dark red or brown in color. They are relatively flat in shape and have two antennae and six legs. They do not possess wings, although their strong legs allow them to jump long distances.
Not sure if you have a flea problem? Or maybe you want to learn more about how flea control works. Check out the following information to clarify some questions you may have.
Should I be concerned about fleas?
As mentioned before, fleas will bite both people and pets alike. The adults are ravenous blood-feeders, consuming up to 15 times their body weight in blood per day. These tiny jumping pests are a true nuisance and plague for homeowners that experience their activity. Although fleas are more likely to be a problem during warm-weather months, they can also cause problems during cooler seasons due to their ability to continue their life cycle indoors.
Unlike mosquito bites, flea bites remain small and usually appear in groups of three or four, or in a straight line. In humans, bites are commonly found around the ankles or legs, as well as the waist, groin, armpits, and in the skin folds of the elbows and knees.
The main issue with a flea infestation is that it may cause health issues if not treated on time, on both pets and humans. They are the most common transmitter of the rare bubonic plague. They also transmit the bacterial disease murine typhus to humans through infected rats that enter properties. Additionally, fleas can transfer tapeworms and cause anemia in pets, which is why active flea management is an important component of pet care.
Signs of fleas’ infestations
There are many signs of a flea infestation but you will probably start noticing them mainly in your pet than in your home. The following are some signs of a possible flea infestation you need to be aware of:
- Scratching; you will probably first notice the effects of fleas when your dog or cat repeatedly scratches and chews at its fur. Your pets’ scratching is not only because can fleas cause sharp pain when they bite, but also because their salivary glands give off a substance that’s irritating to many dogs and cats.
- Physical sighting; adult fleas are about an eighth of an inch long. They’re reddish-brown and very thin. Although it’s hard to really see what they look like without a microscope you can see them in light-colored fur sometimes. They have big back legs and can jump, by some measurements, upward and outward at least 12 inches in a single leap
- Flea dirt; you can see what they leave behind, flea dirt looks a little like pepper. You can spot it on your pet’s skin, or your pet could leave it someplace, like its bedding, the carpet, or their favorite chair.
Why do I have fleas on my property?
Pets initially become infested when adult fleas occur indoors or outdoors jump on the animal looking to feed on them. With the ability to jump vertically up to about 6 inches, the adults can easily hitch a ride onto a passing dog or cat, or even the shoes and pant legs of a human. Pets can acquire fleas from kennels, groomers, etc., or even from stray dogs, cats, or wildlife (especially opossums and raccoons) wandering through the yard. Contrary to popular belief, fleas seldom jump directly from one pet to another.
Fleas can be spread through the house as their eggs fall off the pet as it moves through the home and the yard, but in general, they spend the majority of their time on the host animal.
Can I get rid of fleas myself?
There is very little that you can do on your own to get rid of a flea infestation once it is established in your home because of the complexity of these infestations, due to their lifecycle. If you’re concerned you have a flea issue, it is important to quickly treat any pets who may have become a host and have pest control professionals treat your property. The following are some ways in which you can decrease the size of the infestation:
- Locate heavily infested areas, and concentrate efforts on those
- Wash throw rugs and the pets’ bedding and toys.
- Vacuum upholstered furniture. Remove and vacuum beneath cushions and in cracks and crevices.
- Vacuum carpets, especially beneath furniture and in areas that pest frequent.
- Allow carpets to dry, and then vacuum a second time to remove additional fleas the spray caused to emerge.
- Continue to vacuum for 10 days to 2 weeks to kill adult fleas that continue to emerge from pupal cocoons.
Tips to prevent fleas
It is easier to prevent a flea infestation than to get rid of them afterward. The following are some tips that will help you safeguard your home from a future infestation:
- Stop fleas from reproducing in your home if they get inside. Carpets, pet bedding, furniture, and other indoor areas where your dog spends much time will contain the highest number of developing fleas. Frequent vacuuming of these areas (throw the vacuum cleaner bag away afterward) and frequent washing of your dog’s bedding can greatly reduce the number of developing fleas inside your home.
- Consult with your veterinarian as to which flea products will break the flea life cycle in the environment.
- Most flea problems can be managed by treating and preventing fleas on your dog.