Fleas. Just saying it out loud makes us feel itchy, doesn’t it? The presence of fleas is as ubiquitous a problem for pet owners as finding the right collar or cleaning up poop. But for all the assumptions we have about fleas, many of us are actually surprisingly light on the facts when it comes to these tiny Siphonaptera. A great deal of myths have arisen around these tiny creatures and a lot of these have become assumed knowledge (like the world being flat). Since the chances are good that your pet (particularly if it’s an outdoor pet) will get fleas at some point, it’s helpful to know the facts when it comes to knowing the best way to treat your pet.
While there are a great many flea control products on the market such as the Pet-Lock best flea control which we recommend, it’s important to know the right treatment and dosage for your pet. Many pet owners are quick to treat fleas when they recognize (or think they recognize) the symptoms in their pet, yet get frustrated when the treatments are either less effective than expected or not effective at all. This is because, through lack of understanding, owners fail to appreciate just how tenacious, hardy and harmful fleas can be to their pets. While getting rid of fleas is often relatively simple, a little knowledge about these pesky parasites can go a long way.
Thus, we hope to arm you with some important facts that will ensure that you’re able to respond quickly, effectively and decisively to flea infestation.
Fleas live longer than you think
There are a surprising amount of misconceptions when it comes to the lifespan of fleas. Many assume that, like most insects, their life spans only a few days. Even without a host, they can live for around a week. When they’ve latched onto your pet, however, they’re much hardier. A well fed flea can survive for around 3 months.
They are at their most vulnerable when they first emerge from their pupae. If they don’t get a blood meal within a week after hatching, they will die. It’s also worth knowing that female fleas cannot lay eggs until after their first blood meal. Speaking of eggs…
Fleas have a creepy lifecycle
Fleas are like just about everything else on the planet, they’re just trying to survive. However, there’s something inherently creepy about the vampiric lifecycle of a flea. There’s a reason horror movies like Alien are so scary, they play off our very real fear of very real parasitic lifeforms.
Like H R Gieger’s iconic xenomorph, fleas begin life as an egg. As the eggs mature they transition from egg to larva to pupae to adult. When an adult female has taken her first blood meal, it enables her to lay eggs all over the host’s body (yuk!). In fact, a female flea will lay around 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs and larvae are fairly self-explanatory but knowing the pupal stage is important when it comes to effectively disposing of fleas.
Flea pupae are notoriously difficult to kill. They have formed mandibles at the front but not the back legs that enable them to leap from host to host. Thus, they tend to cling to a surface (usually but not necessarily carpets) until they find a suitable host. Unfortunately, during this phase they are wrapped in a silken cocoon which is invulnerable to any pesticidal chemicals. Regular vacuuming or manually removing flea pupae (here’s how to spot them), is the best defense against a flea infestation.
Humans can get fleas too!
Fleas like to nest in fibrous places where they can be sheltered while they grow and / or feed. Thus, places like your pet’s fur are great places for fleas to live while they feed, or carpets and rugs are great places for maturing fleas to lurk while they wait for a suitable host. However, fleas are more tenacious than you may think. Not only can they survive on hard surfaces like laminate or wooden flooring. They’re also known to hide in human bedding or under furniture. While pets’ furry bodies provide a greater surface area for them to live and feed, they can survive just as easily in human hair. Indeed, fleas often use humans as a temporary mobile home until a better host comes along.
Fleas can jump ridiculously far
Unlike most insects, fleas are flightless, however their powerful back legs enable them to jump ridiculously high. They can jump over 100 times their own height (around 7 inches vertically and 13 inches horizontally). Their jumping ability enables them to pass quickly and easily between hosts and it’s also the reason why fleas treatments need to be comprehensive. Not only does the pet in question need to be treated, but any surfaces where a flea might nest.
Fleas can be deadly!
Fleas can be far more than just an irritation for your pet. Though they may be tiny, fleas can do an incredible amount of damage to your pet. Their dining activities may seem innocuous but they can exacerbate a range of existing health problems in pets. They can be especially harmful to elderly or newborn pets. At the very least they can cause a range of skin diseases that lead to irritation and weeping sores which are exacerbated by your pet’s persistent scratching.
Moreover, fleas are notorious carriers of diseases. It was fleas that started the bubonic plague. They can also transfer tapeworms and transmit a range of diseases between animals and even humans.
So, what can you do?
As helpful as it is to have a topical flea treatment handy at all times, any veterinarian will warn you that topical pesticides are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not enough to kill the active adult fleas stowing away aboard your pet, you need to ensure that any maturing larval fleas around the house are eradicated too. If your pets show persistent signs of flea infestation, however many times you apply a topical treatment, it may be time to call a professional exterminator to remove all traces of fleas from your home to ensure your pet’s safety..