Fleas are found throughout the world. They are small, wingless, dark coloured insects that feed on warm blooded animals such as cats, dogs, rats, chickens, pigs and humans etc. There are many different types of flea, around 2000 known varieties, and although there are fleas that are considered specific to each host, these fleas will still bite and feed off other hosts. For example, cat and dog fleas which are particularly common will attack humans, and human fleas will attack pigs, foxes, deer and other animals. Fortunately, the human flea is now relatively rare, in the UK at least, and when it is found, it is usually in pig farms.
Well known types of fleas
– Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)
– Dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis)
– Rat flea (Nosopsyllus fasciatus)
– Human flea (Pulex irritans)
Fleas are extremely well adapted to their environment and their hard outer shell makes them difficult to kill by squashing or swatting alone. They move about very quickly and the anatomical structure of their legs means they can jump particularly high in order to reach an unsuspecting host or to move around ‘obstacles’ on their host such as hairs or feathers.
Any type of flea bite can cause itching, irritation and allergic reactions. The most common place for cat and dog fleas to bite humans is around the ankles and legs and indeed the bites may be the first sign that you have some unwelcome visitors in your home. The bites are usually felt straight away and appear as small red spots or weals, which are intensely itchy, particularly in those who are sensitive to the bites.
Fleas also carry disease so are undesirable in any circumstances. Probably the most famous outbreak of disease that was caused by fleas was the bubonic plague or Black Death which was carried by the rat flea and which terrorised the whole of Europe during part of the 17th Century.
If your dog or cat has fleas, it can very quickly turn into a major problem if not dealt with quickly and effectively. An adult female flea can lay as many as 100 eggs in a matter of days, which of course leads to hundreds of new fleas that are also able to lay hundreds of eggs. It doesn’t take an in-depth knowledge of mathematics to work out that after a relatively short period of time, in the right conditions, you can potentially be dealing with millions of fleas.
How to control fleas in your home
If you have pets then there is every chance that you will have had to treat your pet for fleas at some point. Cats and dogs can pick up fleas whilst outside so there is not much you can do to stop this from happening but you can help prevent them from invading your home.
– Purchase an insecticidal flea spray for your pet and for your home.
– Wash all pet bedding and cloths and the area around where your pet sleeps regularly, as this is most likely where the flea will lay her eggs.
– Flea eggs can lie dormant in cracks and crevices just waiting for vibrations from a passer by to alert the flea to an available host so vacuum all the carpets thoroughly on a regular basis and steam clean the carpets from time to time.
– Brush or comb your cat or dog as often as possible as this will help to dislodge the fleas and eggs from your pets coat. Vacuum the surrounding area immediately afterwards.
– You can also ask your vet for other preparations that may help prevent fleas from settling on your pet in the first place
One of the problems associated with the control of pet fleas is that the fleas have become resistant to many types of flea control. So for example, even if your pet is wearing a flea collar, this alone will not necessarily protect your pet or your home from an infestation of fleas. In order to deal with fleas effectively, you need to treat the flea in its various life cycles, your pet and your home.