Fleas are a type of insect that survives on the blood of other animals, mainly mammals and birds. The fleas typically seen in our area are known as cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis), and can infect dogs and cats. Fleas are transmitted between animals. While fleas can bite humans, it is rare they will inhabit a human and lay eggs. The flea has four life cycles: egg, larva, pupal, and adult. Adult female fleas lay eggs on a host, which can shed into the bedding area of the animal. Once the eggs hatch into larva, the larvae feed on organic matter shed from the remaining adults on the animal. The larvae spin a cocoon for the pupal stage, which they will stay in until they detect a host. Once they find a new host, they emerge from the cocoon as adult fleas. Adult fleas are the stage that takes up residence on our pet. In order to produce eggs, adult fleas need to acquire a blood meal and once they do, adult fleas will lay one egg per hour. The eggs will continue to drop off the host during this time.
If your pet becomes infested with fleas, it is important to fully treat the pet and the environment. Some people overlook the environment and then their pet becomes re-infested. It’s best to keep up with regular preventative treatments for you pet, and to regularly wash animal bedding. Be mindful of the products you use, as some are specified for different life stages of the flea. Most are directed at adult fleas and designed to enter the bloodstream so that when the flea goes to take a blood meal, they die. Adult fleas can go 1-2 days without eating. Some products are designed to target eggs as well or to kill adult fleas on contact. Feel free to consult with your veterinarian, as fleas can go through different patterns of resistance to products. Veterinarians will be informed about these resistance phases and can recommend a product that is best for your area.
It’s important to note that fleas are not just a nuisance to our pets and us, but can also spread diseases. There has been a recent increase in the number of infections being contracted from fleas in humans and pets. Fleas can spread diseases through biting their hosts or from being ingested by other animals. The most common affliction from flea infestations is the rashes and itching caused by the fleabite but fleas can also spread plague, typhus, and cat-scratch disease. Fleas can also spread tapeworms to pets when infected fleas are ingested during grooming. If your pets have had a recent flea infestation and any member of your household, furry or human, are experiencing flu-like symptoms, it is recommended to visit your doctor.