If you have a cat or a dog (or some combination) then you probably have dealt with fleas at some point or another. The most common type of flea found in North America is the Cat flea (ctenocephalides felis) and despite its name can be found on dogs and humans. Another type of flea that is sometime found in North America is the Dog flea (ctenocephalides canis), though this one is more commonly found in Europe.
Adult fleas are approximately 1/8-inch long and are dark in colour, ranging from brown to reddish-brown. Adult fleas are wingless but can jump large distances because of their 6 legs. They have thin and flat bodies and are covered in hair that helps root them into their hosts.
Fleas have 4 stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupae and adult as you can see in the life cycle diagram on the right.
In order for an adult to lay eggs, she must have a good bloood meal before she can lay up to 40-50 eggs a day. A female will lay her eggs in a host’s fur, however the eggs will roll out in order to develop in carpets and baseboards. Once the eggs hatch, the larva will crawl into cracks and crevices looking for food. Larva are completely blind, however they are considered negatively phototaxic, which means they can sense light. Larva will primarily feed on dried blood in adult flea feces, but they will also eat shed skin, fur and feathers. Doesn’t that sound yummy?
The next stage in the flea life cycle is pupae. After the flea reaches this stage, they can remain dormant for several months until the conditions are right for the adult flea to emerge. For them, the ideal conditions include pressure, vibrations, presence of carbon dioxide, correct temperature and humidity. When these are right, it means there’s a suitable host that the adult fleas can use as a food source.
Adult fleas need an ideal food source, because they can’t survive for more than a few hours otherwise.
Signs of A Flea Infestation
Identifying whether or not you have a flea infestation is a relatively easy task. The difficult part comes when trying to get rid of the infestation. If your pet is excessively scratching, it would be a good idea to check his or her fur for signs of fleas. Some signs to look for (aside from the obvious excessive scratching) is reddened skin, flea dirt (which is not actually dirt, but dried blood) and another obvious sign: fleas!
*Little tip: Found something in your pet’s fur that you think might be flea dirt? Put it on a piece of tissue or toilet paper and put a little bit of water on it. If it appears reddish, it’s flea dirt.*
If you discover fleas on your pet(s), then you should contact your vet about treatment for the animals. That’s the easy part.
How to Treat Fleas in Your Home
Just confirming that your pet has fleas will unfortunately not confirm just how bad the infestation is, since adult fleas found on pets only comprise about 5% of the total flea population. Treating a flea infestation take patience and time. By applying a spot treatment to your pet(s)’ fur, you will be able to fight the fleas found on your animal(s). However, to treat the fleas located in your home, you have 2 options: find a home remedy (which are NOT always effective or hire a professional, such as Cottage Country Pest Control to help rid your home of fleas.
How to Treat Fleas on Humans (and no I’m not kidding!)
Fleas can and will settle into a person’s hair (they can do this in less than 10 minutes). Fleas on a human head can cause soreness and itchiness. In order to treat the side effects, there are a few options such as anti-itch creams, antihistamines, hyrdocortison or calamine lotion.
Because a flea has multiple stages in their life cycle, it can be difficult to wipe out an infestation with a short-term treatment. Treatments that only kill the adult fleas, will not work because as already noted, adults only make up a small portion of the population and larva can stay dormant for months.
For a treatment to be successful, it needs to kill the fleas at all stages of their life cycle and be on-going for at least a few months to ensure that larva that have been dormant, will be killed when they emerge as adult fleas.