Got Fleas? Here's what you need to know.
If you’re a pet lover, you’re aware of fleas. Like ticks, fleas are a parasite that looks to a warm body to feed on. They especially like digging deep into your pet’s fur and laying their eggs. As you probably know, fleas cause nonstop itching which can be infuriating and lead to red, raw skin and generally make your life (or pet’s) miserable. As if that isn’t bad enough, they can also give your pet a tapeworm.
Fleas can live in your carpet, your furnishings, your pet’s bedding and even in shedded pet hair for weeks on end --even when you’re trying to get rid of them.
Fleas are partial to warm climates and grassy areas. But as a parasite, they require a host to provide them sustenance. Your dog, cat or even yourself will do the job nicely thank you.
Here’s a pet lover’s glimpse at the flea life-cycle:
A Flea Is Born
There are four stages of a flea’s life: eggs, larvae, pupa and adult. Depending on conditions, (weather, humidity, availability of hosts) this lifecycle can take a few weeks to many months.
Here’s how it works:
Fleas lay eggs, and eggs hatch larvae. Larvae are tiny, blind and lack legs. They lie quietly and subsist on “flea dirt” which is pre-digested blood that the adult fleas excrete. Yes, it sounds gross.
After a few days of this – usually somewhere between 5 – 20 days depending on humidity and other factors, they’ll spin a cocoon. This is the pupa stage. This cocoon can keep them safe and sound. It’s small too. Fleas can spin cocoons that are just 5 x 2 millimeters and hide in corners of chairs, under beds, deep in the carpet, anywhere really. Cocoons protect fleas from insecticides so if your house is fumigated, and fleas re-emerge a few days or weeks later, this is why. You had cocoons that weren’t destroyed.
If you’ve ever dealt with a flea infestation, you know how difficult it is to get rid of them. You can vacuum your house thoroughly and use a flea comb on your pets every day for a week. And just when you think you’ve got them under control, boom! Fleas are leaping out of the carpet on you and your pet all over again.
Flea Prevention with a Good Treatment is Critical
Fleas can lay 50 eggs within 24-36 hours and those eggs will hatch a few weeks later. Those eggs are microscopic – fleas are tiny – and they can even survive in fur that your pet sheds.
If you see a flea, you’ll want to swing into immediate action by vacuuming your house and furniture thoroughly and washing pet beds in scalding hot water. For every adult flea you see, there are potentially hundreds more waiting to hatch.
If you suspect your pet has fleas, but you’re not seeing them, you can use a flea comb to comb through your pet’s fur. Some of the loose fur will come out in the comb and then you can use a damp paper towel to press on the comb and slide the fur out. Do you see any reddish color specks? If so, that’s flea “dirt.”
Keep combing so that you can remove as many of the eggs as possible, apply the flea/tick solution that you’ve discussed with your vet and bathe your pet with a preventive shampoo.
Flea prevention is your best course of action and you can consult with your veterinarian on how often you should use a flea treatment on your pet.
If fleas do take up residence in your home- and on your pet -- be aware that it can take weeks to rid yourself of them entirely. You need to get rid of the eggs to prevent them from becoming adults and that can mean daily vacuuming and flea combing for a week or more.
Have you ever dealt with a flea infestation?