Fleas are small flightless insects, parasites of mammals and birds which live off of the blood of their hosts. With their long legs, they have the ability to jump long distances, often 100 times their own body length. This allows them to jump up and horizontally over around 30 cm which, based on their body size, makes them amongst the most agile creatures on the planet, compared to their body size. There are over 2500 different types of fleas worldwide. Fleas can be animal specific and only live off one type of animal, like dog fleas, whilst others can live on different animal types.
Fleas go through four lifecycle stages, the egg, the larva, the pupa and the adult insect. Fleas must feed on blood before they can become capable of reproduction. Female fleas can produce up to 50 eggs a day which is about 1500 in their lifetime, meaning they are capable of establishing themselves very quickly if not controlled. Certain types of fleas can produce up to 5000 eggs in their lifetime.
Fleas can live for many months without a host, so homes can become infested long after a pet has left. It is estimated that 95% of an infestation of fleas actually live off the host, meaning you may need to treat the home as well as the animal. Fleas can also pass on certain infections like Myxomatosis in rabbits.
The best control method is to give your pets specific flea treatments. There are many different types which are best suited for different animals, from drops to collars. It is best to consult your pet store or vet to get advice on the best treatment for your particular animal. You should only use treatments for the animal type they are designed for. Some dog flea treatments are toxic to cats so make sure you use the right one.
If fleas are in your home, you can buy sprays and powders to control and irradicate them. Keeping your pet’s bedding clean and regularly vacuuming furniture, floors and under furniture will definitely help to break the lifecycle of the flea. Once you finish vacuuming, always throw the dust bag away.
When it comes to identifying fleas on your pet, the most common indication is a constant scratch, a sure indicator that fleas may be present. It may also be that you have bites on your skin. Other signs can be an allergic reaction, as pets can be allergic to the saliva of the flea.
You can use a fine-tooth flea comb or just look closely at the skin for tiny dark specs in their fur, or you may see small black or brown insects moving about. Where you use a flea comb the fleas or droppings will be seen on the comb, when placing them on a white surface. If you add a few drops of water to what comes off the comb and the droppings turn reddish brown, this is a likely indication of fleas.