Fleas 101Missy Henriksen
Monday, June 2, 2014
Fleas are the most prevalent parasite found on fur-bearing
animals, such as dogs and cats. There are an estimated 2,000
species of fleas worldwide, and more than 300 types are found in
the United States. The cat flea,
Ctenocephalides felis, is the most common domestic flea. Other
kinds of fleas include dog fleas, human fleas and rat
What does a flea look like?
Fleas are small, wingless, flat insects with three pairs of
legs. Adult fleas are about 1/8 of an inch long (1 to 3 mm). They
are dark reddish-brown in color and have biting mouthparts. They
can be very hard to spot because they move so fast along the
animal's body. Flea-combs and wetting an animal's hair can help you
grasp them for a visual inspection.
What do fleas eat?
Fleas feed on any warm-blooded body, including humans. However,
they prefer to dine on hairy animals such as dogs, cats,
rabbits, rats, mice, opossums, raccoons and skunks.
Where do fleas live?
Once a flea hatches and becomes an adult, it uses its powerful
legs to jump onto a host, where it likely remains at all times.
While attached, the flea will feed, mate and lay eggs. The eggs
often fall off of the host into the yard, bedding, carpeting or
Are fleas dangerous?
Fleas not only cause discomfort from biting, but they are also
vectors of the bubonic plague. While there are few cases reported
today, this rare disease wiped out one-third of Europe in the 14th
century. Additionally, they can spread the bacterial disease murine
typhus, which is transmitted to humans through infected rats. In
pets, fleas serve as an intermediate host for tapeworm. The saliva
of these biting pests is known to cause serious flea allergy
dermatitis in dogs and cats.
How can I prevent a flea infestation?
There are a few tips that people should follow to prevent fleas
from becoming an itchy nuisance.
- Maintain a clean home. Practicing good sanitation is key to
avoiding an infestation.
- Vacuum carpets, floors and furniture frequently, and wash ben
linens regularly, to remove any existing fleas and help prevent the
laying of eggs.
- Since fleas can transport themselves on rodents, it's important
to eliminate any rodent harborage points by keeping the lawn
properly landscaped. This includes mowing the lawn on a regular
basis, replacing loose mortar and weather stripping around the
basement foundation and windows, and removing all moisture sites
around the property.
- Check pets' coats thoroughly for fleas, especially after
spending time outdoors. Be aware of excessive scratching and
- Bathe pets after walks or playtime with other animals.
- Wash pet bedding, collars and plush toys frequently.
- Speak to a veterinarian about flea prevention treatments.
How do I get rid of fleas?
Fleas have the ability to reproduce quickly, which makes flea
infestations very difficult to control. In fact, fleas can produce
as many as 400 to 500 offspring in their lifetime. A veterinarian
can recommend the best methods and products for treating fleas on
your pet. However, if you discover fleas in your home, it's
important to contact a licensed pest professional to assist with
flea control. Enter your zip code here to locate a pest
control company near you.