The very mention of the word ‘fleas’ is enough to make your hair stand and skin crawl. It is quite a reflex action for most when we are talking about these pesky blood-sucking parasites.
Fleas are small, extremely fast and are avaricious feeders. They not only can cause physical harm to both animals and humans but mental stress as well.
Today, we will try to learn more about this parasite and how to prevent a flea infestation at home and on your pet.
Most importantly, we will also share some effective tips on how you can go about killing these pesky parasites.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are basically blood-sucking insects that are considered serious parasites. They are worse than mozzies that can give you a few bites. Fleas can stay and feed off their host (animal/human) for months.
And to make matters even worse, they can start laying eggs and start a flea colony on the host.
Fleas are really tiny which make them very hard to spot if you don’t look close enough. On average, a flea is about 0.039 to 0.13 inches long.
It is easy to mistake them for specks of dust or dirt on your cat. And given that fleas are dark coloured, it is even harder to spot them if your cat’s fur is of a darker shade.
What Is The Life Cycle Of A Flea?
Understanding the life cycle of a flea makes it easier for us to get rid of them. In general, there are four stages to a flea life cycle.
Upon feeding on the host, the female flea will start to lay its egg in batches of about 40-50 eggs a day. These eggs are really tiny, about the size of a grain of sand. Over her lifetime of about 2-3 months, she can lay a staggering 2000 eggs on her host!
The eggs can take up to a few weeks to develop and hatch. The eggs are very dependent on the climate and a warm humid environment is more ideal for the egg to turn into a larva.
The larvae will feed on the feces of the adult fleas, also known as flea dirt. It is partially digested blood that is passed out by the adult fleas.
The larva will continue to feed on this for about 20 days before spinning a cocoon to transform into a pupa.
The cocoon of the pupa is the final stage before it reaches the adult stage. The cocoon of the flea is an amazing mechanism. In some ways, it almost acts as a cryogenic chamber for the pupa.
It allows the pupa to incubate and hibernate in there until a potential host comes along. The pupa is able to lie in wait up to a few years even. The cocoon is also strong enough to protect the pupa from cleaning chemicals and appliances.
Once the pupa senses a potential host nearby, it will breakout will its protective cocoon and latch itself onto the host.
Once it is one the host the fleas will begin to feed on the blood, mate and lay eggs to repeat the entire cycle.
Different Types Of Fleas
Here’s a rather interesting fact.
There are different types of fleas for different species of animals. And there’s one type of flea that is specifically meant for humans too!
You have dog fleas, cat fleas, rodent and bird fleas and last but not least, human fleas.
The most common type of flea is the cat flea that will look for a cat to live on. They can also set up shop on dogs which is why you should separate your pets if one of them has a flea infestation.
This type of flea won’t live on humans but they will give us flea bites around our ankles.
Why Are Fleas Dangerous To Our Pets?
Having to go through a flea infestation is no laughing matter. There are some serious health implications that these parasites can cause us and our pets.
Many pets are allergic to flea saliva and when the fleas start feeding on the poor animal, they will start scratching at these spots.
It can be very itchy for them and they will scratch at these areas non-stop which cause the skin to break and bleed.
Humans can also experience the same level of discomfort that can affect our quality of life.
Fleas carry the tapeworm parasite in them which they can transmit to our pets. There is a high chance that your cat or dog will ingest a flea when scratching themselves and licking their paws.
Tapeworms can grow up to huge sizes in their host by stealing and robbing the host of their nutrients.
This is a serious issue for puppies, kittens and older pets. There can be a large number of fleas that are feeding on the blood of the poor creature. This can cause the host to lose large amounts of blood that will make them weak and eventually lead to death.
How To Prevent A Flea Infestation?
There is no surefire way to prevent a tick infestation given how small and hardy this parasite is. But there are a couple of ways that you can help minimize flea exposure to your pets.
Keep Your Pets Indoors As Much As Possible
If you have cats at home, it would be best to keep them indoors at all times. They can get exposed to fleas by coming into contact with other infected animals and areas.
Not only are you protecting your cat against fleas but it keeps your cat away from busy roads and dangerous people.
If you have dogs at home, they do need their outdoor time. Try not to let them run around in tall grass areas.
Use Flea Medication If Necessary
It can be a good idea to give your dog or cat a flea bath every once in a while just to be sure. Make sure to use a good flea shampoo from the pet store or one that is prescribed by the vet.
A flea comb soaked in a mixture of dawn dish soap is a good way to kill fleas.
There are also other flea treatments like flea collars and flea medications. One thing to note is that such medications are very harsh given that fleas are so hard to kill.
Some dog owners use Nexgard to get rid of parasites on their dogs. Do note that there are four different strengths of Nexgard that depend on the weight of your dog. It is possible to overdose the dog with Nexgard if you purchase the wrong one.
Such treatments can have an adverse effect on kittens and puppies given their smaller size. It would be best to consult your vet on the right dosage before applying anything bought from the pet store.
If your cat or dog has a flea infestation, make sure to isolate them in a separate room away from your other pets and family members.
You don’t want the fleas to be passed on to your other pets or running all over the house.
You can let your pet out of the room once the flea infestation is settled.
Totally clean up the room by vacuuming and wiping the surfaces with dish soap to make sure the fleas don’t have a chance to set up nest in the room.
Are Fleas Good For Anything?
Difference Between A Flea And A Tick?
This is something that many pet owners tend to get confused about. A tick is closer related to the spider as it has eight legs as opposed to six like the flea. They are a lot bigger than fleas and are easier to spot with the naked eye.
The flea will just feed on one host but the tick is capable of jumping from host to host to feed. They can spread lyme disease which is pretty serious.
Having a flea infestation on your pet at least once is pretty much part and parcel of pet ownership. The symptoms are easy to detect early and it’s very treatable.
Make sure to use the correct medication for your pet and bring it to the vet just to be sure.